Men’s tennis splits matches over the weekend

Virginia beats Eastern Kentucky, loses to Kentucky

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Freshman Gianni Ross picked up several wins in matches against Eastern Kentucky and Kentucky this past weekend.

Callie Collins | Cavalier Daily

The Virginia men’s tennis team had mixed results this weekend with a strong 6-1 win over Eastern Kentucky and a 4-1 loss against Kentucky.

The victory over the Colonels (2-6) on Saturday was expected by many observers, but the extent to which Virginia (3-3) was able to control the match was surprising. This was Virginia’s most dominating performance of the regular season so far. In doubles competition, the Cavaliers won the doubles point quickly, allowing Eastern Kentucky to win only a combined six games across all three courts. In singles, the Cavaliers won on courts two, three, four and five quickly, and occasionally with straight sets. The Cavaliers lost on court six, however, and junior Aswin Lizen struggled mightily with senior Raymond van Flymen before winning the match in the third set.

A bright point in the loss to Kentucky (6-2) was the capture of the doubles point by the Cavaliers. After a couple of close losses over the doubles point last weekend, Coach Andres Pedroso had talked about focusing on doubles in practice over the next week. That practice paid dividends Sunday, as the Cavaliers took the doubles point over the Wildcats. On court three, freshmen Gianni Ross and Kyrylo Tsygura had a strikingly quick victory over Kentucky’s Kento Yamada and Alex Dominguez. A loss on court two at the hands of senior Gus Benson and junior Ryotaro Matsumura leveled the playing field for the Wildcats, and set the stage for a climatic showdown on court one. There, freshmen Matthew Lord and Ammar Alhaqbani showed incredible mental fortitude and defeated the opposing Wildcats 7-6, winning the doubles point for Virginia. 

“We were so close before that I don’t think it’s about the [individual doubles] teams,” Pedroso said. “It was more about just staying the course and eventually things are going to go in our favor. That’s what the guys did today. On [court] one we got broken three times in one no-ad set, so there were a lot of different times to say this is too hard, but these guys just hanged in there and we got the doubles point.” 

From there, however, things began to fall apart for the Cavaliers. In quick succession, courts four, six and five finished in favor of the Wildcats, with no more than three games in a set going to any of the Virginia players. Alhaqbani put up a ferocious fight during the first set on court three, but lost 7-5 against junior Enzo Wallart. During the second set, Wallart pressed his advantage and won the set 6-1, ending the match. 

The two matches left unfinished — on court one between junior Aswin Lizen and Kentucky senior William Bushamuka and on court two between Ross and Wildcats junior Ryotaro Matsumura — painted a better picture of the Cavaliers. Lizen was locked in a 6-6 duel in the second set after handily beating Bushamuka 6-1 in the first set. Ross was down two games after losing 7-5 to Matsumura in the first set, but was holding his own against a player who was ranked at No. 34 in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

For right now, however, the Cavaliers have just landed their third defeat in the past four games after having only a single loss all season last year. It is a rebuilding year for the new program, but Virginia needs to learn how to win big matches if they wish to make any noise in conference play. 

“Every match is great for these guys,” Pedroso said. “We are all going to learn like crazy and I hope the guys are hurting right now, because they should be using that as motivation on Tuesday when they get back on the practice court.”

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