May 8, 2009

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The 14th-ranked men's tennis team (21-7) advanced to the Second Round of the NCAA Tournament with a hard-fought 4-0 victory over the No. 59 Furman Paladins (22-8) Friday at the University of Alabama Tennis Stadium. The Crimson Tide now advances to take on the No. 25 Boise State Broncos tomorrow beginning at 2:00 p.m. (CST).

"College tennis is so deep," said head coach Billy Pate. "We play Furman every year, and it is always a battle. They are a tremendous team and we knew we were going to get their best. We had some opportunities to finish quicker, but I can't complain with a 4-0 win."

Alabama took control early in doubles action on court two, as senior Billy Mertz and junior Saketh Myneni seized an early break. That was all they needed, but they still fought to earn an insurance break in taking down juniors Chris Rhyne and Chris Motes 8-4. The other two matches were tight the entire way, and it was the freshman duo of Ricky Doverspike and Michael Thompson who clinched the doubles point for the Tide at the No. 3 spot. Things were on serve until 4-4, when the Alabama pair managed to break. Junior Jordan Walters and sophomore Andrei Chvetsov hung in the match, but could not get the break back. Doverspike eventually served it out for an 8-6 win. The match on court one, which featured two top 50 pairs and four seniors, was a hard fought battle. Dan Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau, currently No. 23 nationally, were tied at 6-6 with Andy Juc and Bo Ladyman, currently No. 45 nationally, when play was stopped. Neither pair was able to break during the match.

The Tide took a 2-0 lead thanks to Buikema, who breezed by senior Daniel Knause 6-3, 6-2 on court three. Buikema was able to earn early breaks in both sets, and keep momentum on his side throughout the match. It would be a long time before the next match finished, as the other five courts were very competitive, including four matches that went to three sets. Thibaudeau would finally come through for Alabama, winning in two very tight sets. The opening set remained on serve the entire duration, eventually going into a tiebreak. Thibaudeau, ranked No 84 nationally, was able to jump ahead early in the tiebreak and take it 7 points to 2 over Ladyman. He used the momentum to break serve to open the second, and that was all he needed to take the second set 6-4.

It was Doverspike on court six who clinched the win for the Tide, but it didn't come easy. Doverspike cruised to an easy 6-1 first set win, but sophomore Sawyer Duncan fought back. Duncan broke at 4-3 in the second, but could not consolidate the break, losing serve the next game. The set eventually went into a tiebreak, with Duncan taking it seven points to two. However, it was Doverspike's turn to grasp the momentum back, as he won five games in a row for a 5-0 lead. Duncan held to make it 5-1, but Doverspike was able to serve out the win 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-1.

The other three matches were all in the middle of the third set when play was stopped. On court one, a battle of ranked players proved to be a very even match. No. 22 Myneni had a set point while returning at 5-4, but wouldn't secure the break and the set until the next return game, winning the set 7-5. However, No. 104 Juc began putting pressure on Myneni's serve in the second, securing an early break and threatening in almost every Myneni service game en route to taking the set 6-4. The third set was at 2-2 when play was stopped. On court four, Thompson found himself in an early hole against Motes and he was unable to dig out, dropping the opening set 6-4. The second set featured the two players trading early breaks, but it was Thompson who broke again at 5-5 and took the set 7-5. Thompson had secured a break in the third, holding a 4-2 lead. At the No. 5 spot, Mertz and Walters split the opening two sets, each winning 6-4. The final set remained tight as well, with the score tied at 3-3 when play was stopped.

In the day's earlier match, No. 25 Boise State defeated No. 57 Middle Tennessee State 4-0 to move on to the second round. Bronco senior Blane Shields clinched the match at No. 6 with a 6-3, 7-5 win.

1. No. 23 Buikema/Thibaudeau (UA) vs. No. 45 Juc/Ladyman (FUR) 6-6, dnf.
2. Mertz/Myneni (UA) def. Rhyne/Motes (FUR) 8-4
3. Doverspike/Thompson (UA) def. Walters/Chvetsov (FUR) 8-6
Order of Finish: 2,3

1. No. 22 Saketh Myneni (UA) vs. No 104 Andy Juc (FUR) 7-5, 4-6, 2-2, dnf.
2. No. 84 Mathieu Thibaudeau (UA) vs. Bo Ladyman (FUR) 7-6(2), 6-4
3. Dan Buikema (UA) def. Daniel Knause (FUR) 6-3, 6-2
4. Michael Thompson (UA) vs. Chris Motes (FUR) 3-6, 7-5, 4-2, dnf.
5. Billy Mertz (UA) vs. Jordan Walters (FUR) 4-6, 6-4, 3-3, dnf.
6. Ricky Doverspike (UA) vs. Sawyer Duncan (FUR) 6-1, 6-7(2), 6-1