Kentucky ekes past Mississippi State in SEC tournament during six-hour match
OXFORD, Miss. -- After more than a six-hour match, and a spot in the Southeastern Conference quarterfinals on the line, No. 11 Kentucky outlasted No. 9 Mississippi State 4-2 at the Gillom Sports Center on the campus of Ole Miss.
Beck Pennington clinched the match on court five with a 7-6 (7), 6-0 win after more than 360 minutes of tennis action. Pennington and Mississippi State’s Zach White exchanged service holds for the opening 12 games of the match before an epic tiebreak decided the winner. Pennington had two set points at 6-4, and White fought back to make it 7-7. Pennington re-gained the mini break at 8-7, and served out the 9-7 win to take the opening set.
After an opening-game break to go up 1-0, Pennington easily broke again at 3-0 and 5-0 to earn himself three chances to serve out the match. He battled back from down 15-40 to earn deuce and then won the final two points of the match to clinch the match.
“Obviously, this is a very big win for the boys,” UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “I thought we battled and competed so tough, and that is a big part of our success. We kind of found a spark at doubles with [Anthony] Rossi and [Juan Pablo] Murra, which I thought was big. Anytime you have players like Rossi and [Tom] Jomby, you have a chance to win any match you play. Having said that, there are still players we need to step up if we are going to win this championship. It’s a good win for the boys.”
In a tightly contested doubles point, the Wildcats were able to eke out wins on courts one and three to secure the point and get the early edge in the match. After the first 30 minutes of doubles were outdoors, the skies opened up and the match was delayed, to be played indoors. Due to the length of the preceding match of Ole Miss and Alabama, it was some two-hours-plus before doubles play got back underway.
The first match to conclude was on court three, as Juan Pablo Murra teamed up with Rossi to collect an 8-5 win against Romain Bogaerts and White of Mississippi State. The Wildcats served first and never lost serve in the match. The break was picked up at 4-3 in the first set as the Rossi and Murra took the 5-3 advantage and never looked back.
After the Bulldogs claimed the win on court two, the doubles point was ultimately decided on court one in a top-10 showdown. No. 9 Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai picked up a break at 2-1 to take the early 3-1 edge and was up a break until the 5-3 mark of the match, when Mississippi State preceded to break back. Jomby and Lai had four match points at 8-7 and love-40 up, but No. 10 Malte Stropp and Jordan Angus were able to get it back to deuce, save an advantage point and force things to a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, MSU led 2-1 before Kentucky picked up the mini-break at 4-2 and won the next two points to take the 6-2 lead. After the Bulldogs cut the deficit to 6-4, a forehand into the net by Stropp ended the match, and gave the Wildcats the 9-8 (4) win on court one and the doubles point.
Jomby escalated the UK lead to 2-0 in the match as he had a swift dismissal of No. 55 Stropp 6-3, 6-4. Jomby was down a break at 3-1 early in the second set, but fought and battled his way back onto serve and broke at 4-4 to take the win in straight sets. The win for Jomby pushed his season record to 19-5, including a 9-3 record in SEC play.
MSU got a point with a 6-1, 6-3 win against Charles Minc on court three to make the score 2-1.
Kentucky upped its lead again to 3-1 as senior Anthony Rossi knocked off his 11th-ranked opponent this season in a 6-3, 7-5 win against No. 12 Romain Bogaerts. Rossi breezed through the opening set before Bogaerts made a push in the second set. Rossi fell down an early break before swiftly breaking back to push the final set back on serve at 4-4. After a handful of service holds, Rossi broke at 6-5 and served out the final game for the win.
After MSU closed the gap with a win on court four, it was Pennington’s stage, as he clinched the match at 2:22 a.m. CT.
With the win, Kentucky advanced to the quarterfinal round, where it will take on No. 1-seeded Georgia.