Tide drops second SEC match

Thomas Yerby

The No. 25 Alabama men’s tennis team faced Tennessee Sunday afternoon in a close match that saw No. 2 Tennessee win 4-1. After a 4-2 loss to 11th-ranked Georgia on Friday that also went down to the wire, the team was hoping for a better outcome against second-ranked Tennessee, but head coach Billy Pate acknowledged the difficulty of the Crimson Tide’s schedule after the match.

“Tennessee is maybe the best team in the country, and playing Tennessee and Georgia here at the beginning of our SEC schedule is good for us,” Pate said.

Tennessee came out early and dominated the doubles point to take an early 1-0 lead. No. 2 ranked John-Patrick Smith and Davey Sandgren of Tennessee defeated Saketh Myneni and Michael Davis in the closest match 9-7 while doubles pair Ricky Doverspike and Jarryd Botha and pair Trey Walston and Houssam Yassine also lost 8-3 and 7-4.

“We came out flat today in doubles, and Tennessee is as good as anyone at doubles,” Pate said.

The singles began much the same way the doubles did as Rhyne Williams raced out to an early one-set lead over Jarryd Botha 6-2 and Tennys Sandgren defeated Michael Thompson 6-1 in the first set. Davis also lost a 4-1 lead to lose 6-4 to Matteo Fago, and Doverspike lost 7-6 after holding a 4-2 advantage earlier in the set. But 38th-ranked Myneni won his first set 6-4 over 4th-ranked Smith in a very competitive, back-and-forth set that went down to the wire and Yassine won 7-6 over Tennessee’s Matt Brewer in another close set.

“One point here or there can change the outcome,” Myneni said.

Michael Thompson bounced back and took the second set 6-0 over Sandgren to tie the sets up at one. But Williams defeated Botha 6-4 in the second set to win 6-2,6-4 and get Tennessee their second point while Boris Conkic of Tennessee beat Doverspike 6-3 in a close second set to win 7-6,6-3 and earn Tennessee their third point.  But Yassine breezed by Brewer in the second set 6-2 to win 7-6, 6-2 and earn Alabama its only point.

“I played really well at the end of the first set and in the second,” Yassine said. “I was tight at the beginning because it was a big match and it took me some time to get into rhythm.”

Davis lost to Fago 6-3 in the second and Tennessee got the deciding fourth point. Smith was leading Myneni 5-1 in the second when Tennessee got their fourth point and Thompson was down 1-2 to Sandgren.

“It’s really hard to lose doubles and then win four out of six singles to win the match,” Yassine said. “We had chances but we came up short.”

Head coach Billy Pate agreed with his two seniors.

“We clawed back in after the doubles and got some momentum but just couldn’t turn the corner,” Pate said. “We’ve had the toughest schedule in the country and we’ve shown that we can play with anyone.”