May 16, 2010

Courtesy of Baylor College Sports Information

WACO, Texas - The eighth-ranked and seventh-seeded Baylor men's tennis team punched its ticket to the 2010 NCAA Championship round of 16 with a 4-0 shutout of No. 33 Rice (15-11) on Sunday afternoon at the Baylor Tennis Center.

"I really think as a group we are playing our best tennis right now," head coach Matt Knoll said. "I think that is pretty evident to anybody that has watched us this year. We are a better team than we were even two weeks ago."

Baylor (23-6) improves to 37-11 all-time in NCAA Championship play and moves to 11-0 in second round tournament matches. The round of 16 appearance will be the ninth-straight for Baylor and the program's 11th-trip all-time.

To get out of the second round the Bears had to win a very competitive doubles point that came down to the last match on. Rice won the first match of the day when Oscar Podlewski and Dennis Polyakov took out Sergio Ramirez and Maros Horny, 8-4, at the No. 3 spot. The Baylor duo won the first three games of the match, but then the Owls responded by winning eight of the next nine games to claim the match. The loss was the Baylor pair's first of the season, after starting dual match play 6-0.

Baylor would rebound as Attila Bucko and Jordan Rux handled Rice's Isamu Tachibana and Bruno Rosa, 8-4, on court two. The match was tied at three, before Baylor won six of the next seven points to earn the victory. Bucko and Rux are now 7-4 in dual match play and have won two straight, after losing their previous two.

Baylor's win at No. 2 left the doubles point hanging in the balance with the Bears' No. 1 and 28th-ranked duo of Roberto Maytin and Denes Lukacs leading Christian Saravia and Michael Nusslein, 6-4. Maytin and Lukacs would go up, 7-4, but then Rice ran off two straight wins to pull the match to 7-6. Lukacs then held serve to give the Bears an 8-6 win and the doubles point.

"We didn't play great in the doubles," Knoll said. "If you ask Rice I don't think they would tell you they played great, but as they say in Kansas it ain't a beauty contest. The thing that was clear is that our one team fought hard. Without playing their best tennis, they fought over numerous break points where they could have folded and let it get away from them. They did a good job of sticking in there and that gave us a lot of momentum."

It was the seventh doubles point Baylor has won in its last eight matches and moved the Bears to 20-0 in matches when they win the doubles point.

In singles, the 35th-ranked Rux came out and kept the momentum rolling in Baylor's favor as he dominated Nuesslein at the No. 2 position. Rux opened the match by running out to a 4-0 lead in his first set and then slamming the door by winning eight of the next 11 games to take a 6-1, 6-1 win. It was the Kerrville, Texas, product's first win since April 24 against Texas Tech and it raised his dual-match record to 16-7.

"Jordan Rux could be a good tennis player," Knoll said. "Today he was a good tennis player and I think if he could put that out there every day then we are going to be real excited about what he could do for the program."

Julian Bley was next off the court for the Bears as he claimed a 6-3, 6-2, win at the sixth spot in the lineup over Saravia. The Baylor sophomore jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the match, before Saravia tied it at three, however the Veitshoechheim, Germany, native, would answer back by winning six games in a row and then cruising to the win. Bley has won six straight matches and is 17-3 in dual match play.

Dominik Mueller closed out the victory for Baylor with a 6-2, 7-6(5) win at court four. Mueller was leading 4-2 in the second, before his opponent Podlewski came back to take the lead 6-5. The Baylor senior was up to the challenge as he won the next game to send the match to a tiebreaker and then claimed a 7-5 win in that tiebreaker to take the match.

Mueller moves to 26-6 in dual match play and claims sole possession of third place on the all-time singles win list at Baylor with 120 career wins. Currently, Mueller trails Benjamin Becker (141) and teammate Denes Lukacs (132) on the list.

The Bears now own a three-match win streak over Rice, but still trail 25-6 in the all-time series.

Baylor will now travel to Athens, Ga., to face 10th-ranked Texas A&M (25-6) at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on Friday, May 21 at 3 p.m. (ET). It will be the third matchup between the Bears and Aggies this year with A&M winning once during the conference season in College Station, Texas, 6-1 and once at the 2010 Big 12 Championship in Austin, Texas, 4-1.

"It is kind of something we expect," Knoll said of his team's win. "I think one thing that is nice is I have been to Athens as a coach more times than I can count, so I know what is going on and I think that experience will help our group. I don't think there are going to be any surprises for us down in Georgia. We've got to go down there and try to keep playing well. We are absolutely as pumped up as we could be."