“It was good for our guys to get back on track today,” UK head Cedric Kauffmann said. “We are still playing nowhere our best tennis, but it was good to get a win under our belts today. We need to play with a little more confidence and we need to loosen up a bit to be a successful team down the stretch.”
After dropping the doubles point in three-straight matches for the first time under Kauffmann, the Wildcats shook up the doubles lineup. The freshman/senior combination of Nils Ellefsen and Ryuji Hirooka moved up a court to play No. 2 doubles, with Beck Pennington sliding to the No. 3 position and teaming up with fellow Kentuckian, Maks Gold.
Tom Jomby earns career win No. 75 in UK’s 4-1 win
In the doubles point, Ellefsen and Hirooka were the first to finish at 6-4 on court two and give UK the early leg up in the point. After falling behind an early break at 0-1 to start the match, Gold and Pennington fought back to square the match and eventually force a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Gold and Pennington never lost serve, and won 7-5 to clinch the 1-0 lead in the match for Kentucky.
On the first doubles court, Kentucky’s top-ranked pair of Jomby and sophomore Kevin Lai got a break early in the match, and were serving for it all at 7-6.
The Michigan State pair were able to break, and forced the match into a tiebreak at seven-all. The tiebreak was never started once UK clinched the doubles point on court three.
In singles, Michigan State quickly squared the match at 1-1 overall, as No. 55 Beck Pennington fell in straight sets to Aaron Pfister of Michigan State.
Pennington lost the first set, getting broken twice before fighting in the second set. Pennington and Pfister were all square at 4-4 in the second frame before Pfister broke, and won the match.
Kentucky would take the lead back at 2-1 when No. 68 Tom Jomby earned his 75th-career win in a UK uniform coming from behind to take the win.
Jomby and Drew Lied of Michigan State did not see a single service break in the first set, as Jomby eventually wound up losing the opening-set tiebreak, 7-4 to go down a set. Jomby then took control of the match, only losing serve one time the rest of the match in the final two frames, and breaking three different times to collect a 6-3, 6-3 final two sets and give UK the 2-1 lead in the match.
No. 97 Kevin Lai broke through in three sets as well, knocking off Gijs Linders on court four to give Kentucky the 3-1 lead.
Lai took the first set 7-5, breaking Linders’ serve at 6-5 in the first set to collect the opening-set win.
Lai then dropped a second-set tiebreak, 8-6, as the match went to a decisive third set.
In the third set, Lai was broken at 3-2 and found himself serving at 5-2 late in the set. Lai proceeded to hold, and then broke at 5-4 to square the match at 5-5.
Lai would win his third-straight game, breaking after an extended deuce battle to take the 6-5 lead, and serve for the match.
After falling behind 15-30, Lai collected himself and finished off the match and a 7-5 win in the third set.
Freshman Jerry Lopez had a similar match for Kentucky, as he found himself on court three for the first time in his young career.
Lopez was down a set and two breaks at 5-1 in the second set and battled back to make a match of it. Lopez worked his opponent, John Patrick Mullane into severe cramping during the stretch run of the second set after long points, and hard hitting from the Mexican.
opez got both breaks back after being down 5-1 and ended up taking a second-set tiebreaker, 7-4. Lopez then buckled down and took complete control of the third set, battling to a 6-3 win, collecting three breaks in the final set to clinch the win for Kentucky.
Sunday marked the first career match-clinching win for Lopez.
With the result, Lopez upped his season record to 5-3 overall.
Grant Roberts and Ryuji Hirooka both took the court, and won their respective first sets at the time of the clinch and the matches were both abandoned.
The Wildcats are back in action on Friday, Feb. 21, as Kentucky travels to No. 7 Oklahoma to take on the Sooners at 5 p.m. ET in Norman, Okla.
In the night match, Kentucky swept all six singles courts in a 6-0 win over Wright State.
Jomby, Pennington, Lai, Ellefsen, Lopez and Hirooka all recorded wins.
Information provided by UK Athletics
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