By School reports
OXFORD – Sophomore Chris Thiemann won a third set tiebreaker at No. 3 singles against Alabama’s Michael Thompson to clinch a 4-3 win and the SEC West title for the 17th-ranked Ole Miss men’s tennis team Sunday afternoon at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center.
This marks the Rebels’ (15-4, 6-4) ninth consecutive outright SEC West title. They did what they needed to do, and then got a little help from their arch-rival Mississippi State, who beat Auburn 5-1. The Rebels have now won the SEC West every year since the league split into divisions in 2002.
The outcome literally came down to the last few hits of the ball, and with the match all square at 3, everyone left at the tennis center descended on court three where Chris and Thompson were locked in a tight battle.
Thiemann took the first set 6-3, and was two games away from winning, up 4-2 in the second. Thompson would rally to win the second set 7-5. He gained an early break in the third to go up 3-1, but Thiemann broke right back. He held off several game points on his serve at 3-4 and then held again for 5-5, before breaking Thompson to go up 6-5.
Once again Thompson answered, breaking back to force a tiebreaker. Thiemann raced out to a 6-3 lead in the tiebreaker, but then hit his forehand long and started cramping. Following a timeout, Thiemann hit a forehand approach into the net, allowing Thompson to serve to get back even. This time, however, Thiemann nailed a forehand winner on match point to clinch the victory as his teammates dumped a cooler of water on him.
“I told Chris that was one of the gutsiest performances I’ve ever witnessed,” head coach Billy Chadwick said. “He grew today. He has never reached that deep before. This is a big day for him and for the team. It shows the improvement that he and his brother (Marcel) have made over the course of a year.
“The thing that was so impressive was after he missed the forehand approach, he came right back and hit a forehand winner on match point. He kept going for his shots, even when he missed. He stuck to his game.”
This marks the sixth match for Chris to clinch this year, including the win over Alabama in the ITA National Team Indoor.
“This is the biggest and toughest win in my career,” he said. “I was cramping early in the third. I wasn’t sure if I could finish. He’s such a grinder, and I missed a lot of easy shots on the big points. It was unbelievable.”
The Rebels won the doubles to go up 1-0 early. Tucker Vorster and Jonas Lutjen looked impressive for the second straight day at No. 2 doubles, winning 8-4. After Alabama won 8-5 at No. 3, the Thiemann’s took care of business, 8-4, at No. 1. They are now 9-1 in the SEC.
Alabama gained a 2-1 lead with wins on courts five and one in that order. Houssam Yassine defeated Harry Fowler 6-0, 6-2 and then Marcel Thiemann retired down 6-4, 3-1 to 31st-ranked Saketh Myneni.
Vorster finished the weekend 4-0 in singles and doubles as he promptly defeated the Crimson Tide’s Ricky Doverspike 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2 singles to even the match at 2.
In a battle between two freshmen, Adrian Forberg Skogeng gave Ole Miss a 3-2 lead momentarily, with his 6-1, 6-3 win at No. 6 against UA’s Ian Chadwell.
Alabama then tied it when Jarryd Botha held off Lutjen 7-6(7), 7-6(3) at No. 4, setting up the final outcome on court three.
“We did a good job of getting the doubles point. Tucker’s match made a big difference. That was a big time win. Adrian was too solid for his opponent,” Chadwick said. That left us having to get one more match. If Jonas wins the first set, we’re probably out of there an hour earlier. We told the guys before the match that we could win the West today, and said ‘lets do it.’”
The Rebels now turn their attention to a highly anticipated match against No. 2 ranked Ohio State on Wednesday. The match will begin at 1:30 p.m., due to travel for the Buckeyes.
#17 Ole Miss 4
#28 Alabama 3
1. Thiemann/Thiemann (OM) def. Myneni/Davis (UA) 8-4
2. Vorster/Lutjen (OM) def. Doverspike/Thompson (UA) 8-4
3. Botha/Walston (UA) def. Fowler/Forberg Skogeng (OM) 8-5
Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1
1. Saketh Myneni (UA) def. Marcel Thiemann (OM) 6-4, 3-1, ret.
2. Tucker Vorster (OM) def. Ricky Doverspike (UA) 6-4, 6-2
3. Chris Thiemann (OM) def. Michael Thompson (UA) 6-3, 5-7, 7-6(5)
4. Jarryd Botha (UA) def. Jonas Lutjen (OM) 7-6(7), 7-6(3)
5. Houssam Yassine (UA) def. Harry Fowler (OM) 6-0, 6-2
6. Adrian Forberg Skogeng (OM) def. Ian Chadwell (UA) 6-1, 6-3
Order of Finish: 1, 5, 2, 6, 4, 3