Led by a comeback doubles victory and a three-set tiebreaker singles win, the USF men’s tennis team knocked off the 17th-ranked South Alabama Jaguars 5-2 Friday.
“Everyone battled hard on every court,” USF coach Don Barr said. “They refused to quit. We beat an extremely good team in South Alabama and I can’t be more proud of this team.”
The Bulls, No. 38 in the most recent Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, gained their first valuable victory when the No. 3 doubles team of Jorge Escallon and Nadim Naser managed to string together four straight games, turning a 6-4 deficit into an 8-6 victory. The victory by Naser and Escallon, accompanied by the earlier USF victory at No. 2 from Martin Wetzel and Dan McCain, secured the doubles point for USF and gave the Bulls a 1-0 lead heading into singles competition.
“I wouldn’t call it the turning point of the match, but it certainly gave us some momentum going into singles matches,” Escallon said.
“We knew that it would be a tough match and the doubles point would be important. I give credit to Nadim because I wasn’t playing my best tennis, but he supported me and we broke back to give us some momentum into singles.”
However, as pivotal as the Naser and Escallon victory was for the Bulls (3-0), USF managed a crucial triumph at No. 3 when Wetzel, in his first singles match since reinjuring his quadriceps muscle, took down Christian Thall, No. 48 in the ITA singles rankings, 6-7, 6-3, 7-6 (10-8), in a dramatic third set tiebreaker to clinch the match for USF.
Wetzel’s comeback began as the Bulls saw their lead in the match slowly starting to slip away. USF sprinted to 3-0 as Naser and Escallon followed up their doubles success with equal proficiency in singles – Naser defeating Clinton Jacobs 6-0 and 6-4 at No. 5, while Escallon breezed past Jullien Gillet at No. 6, 6-1, 6-2. The Bulls also got first-set wins from McCain at No. 3 and Uli Kiendl No. 2, but then watched as both dropped their second sets.
With Kiendl and Paco Antelo both trailing in their third sets, USF needed either a victory from McCain or Wetzel to take the match.
Wetzel rallied after dropping the first set tiebreaker to reclaim the second set 6-3 with some aggressive serving and a potent forehand.
Thall broke Wetzel’s serve to gain a 3-2 advantage in the third, but Wetzel stole the next three games to lead 5-3. Thall answered with a 3-0 run of his own to put Wetzel’s back to the wall, but the sophomore responded by taking the final two games. Seconds later, McCain finished off Evan Fowler, 6-4, 4-6, 6-2, at No. 4 to seal the Bulls upset.
“I don’t think it was a big surprise or upset,” Escallon said.
“Considering the conditions that we were at home and with the quality of players we have, it was an attainable win. We got it and that’s a good first step on the season, hopefully towards the top 30.”
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