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Jan. 29, 2005

Columbia, S.C. – The USC men’s tennis team swept the doubles competition and won five of six singles matches on Saturday, defeating East Carolina (1-3, 0-0 CUSA) 6-1 at the USC Indoor Tennis Facility in Columbia. It was Carolina’s 18th consecutive win in season opening matches, and USC (1-0, 0-0 SEC) improved to 4-0 all-time against the Pirates. The afternoon match against UNC-Asheville, scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., was canceled due to inclement travel conditions for the Bulldogs. This is the second weekend in a row that USC has had a match canceled due to inclement weather. The teams have not yet rescheduled the match.

East Carolina began all three doubles matches with the serve, and quickly took 1-0 leads in all three matches. However, on courts one and two, USC’s teams of Tom Eklund/Pedro Rodrigues and Ben Atkinson/Dmitry Babenko took over almost immediately and cruised to wins of 8-3 and 8-1 respectively.

The two most exciting matches of the day took place on court two, and both involved USC’s Geraldo Knorr and ECU’s Felipe Fonseca.The first was the doubles match that paired Knorr with freshmen Jaime Cuellar, taking on Fonseca and Henrique Viana. The two pairs traded serves through the first nine games, culminating in a tenth game that took nearly 15 minutes. Knorr and Cuellar won the tenth game to take a 6-4 lead, and went on to win 10 of the last 11 points in the match, en route to an 8-4 victory for Carolina. The second match involving Knorr and Fonseca was the No. 2 singles match. The match was a tightly contested one from the start, and resulted in the only three-set match of the day. Knorr began the match in front, but fell 6-3 in the first set. The two players traded serves all the way through the second set, with Knorr getting the final break to win the set 7-5. ECU’s Fonseca was able to break Knorr early in the third set and went on to earn a 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 victory, ECU’s only match win of the day.

In other singles action, USC got wins from Eklund, Rodrigues, Cuellar, Ben Atkinson, and Adam Adler. Eklund started off the No. 1 match against Paulo Baumer quickly, winning the first set 6-2. Eklund sustained a slight injury late in the first set, but was able to pull through and defeat Baumer with a 7-5 second set victory. Rodrigues, the 101st ranked player in the nation, easily defeated Darren Mansell, 6-1, 6-1. The six-foot three Brazilian played almost half the match at the net, and overpowered Mansell with his hard serve and punishing forehand volley. Senior Ben Atkinson forced the only ‘love set’ of the day, and defeated Nick Rose, 6-3, 6-0.

Carolina Head Coach Kent DeMars had this to say about Saturday’s match:

“The biggest thing about the first match is that you want to win and you want to get everybody playing to their level. This was [ECU’s] fourth match, but our first. You’re always concerned about coming out and playing flat, especially since it’s not an SEC match. All in all, I’m pleased with this performance, we haven’t competed since November, and we got a win in our first match and the guys played well.”

Coach DeMars commented on the injury situations coming into the match:

“I felt pretty good about it in general, but I was a little bit nervous because Jaime came in sick, I couldn’t play [USC sophomore] Dmitry [Babenko] in singles, and [USC freshman Thomas] Stoddard just had an MRI. Tom was hurting pretty bad there at the end of his match, and if we reschedule the [UNCA] match for tomorrow, I don’t know if we’ll be able to play him or not. February is a long month; you’re always going to have three or four guys sick or injured. You just have to hold your breath.”

Carolina’s next match will be on the road, as they take on Charlotte and Davidson, next Sunday, Feb. 6, in Charlotte. The 38th ranked Gamecocks return to Columbia the following weekend for a triple-header. USC will take on Elon, in a rescheduled match, at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 12, and follow up with matches against Wofford and Samford on Sunday, Feb. 13, beginning at 10 a.m. All three matches will take place at the USC Indoor Tennis Facility in the USC Field House.

No. 38 USC vs. East Carolina Results:


Eklund/Rodrigues (USC) def. Baumer/Rose (ECU) 8-3

Knorr/Cuellar (USC) def. Fonseca/Viana (ECU) 8-4

Atkinson/Babenko (USC) def. Mansell/Stasch (ECU) 8-1


Eklund (USC) def. Baumer (ECU) 6-2, 7-5

Fonseca (ECU) def. Knorr (USC) 6-3, 5-7, 6-3

Rodrigues (USC) def. Mansell (ECU) 6-1, 6-1

Cuellar (USC) def. Viana (ECU) 6-1, 6-1

Atkinson (USC) def. Rose (ECU) 6-3, 6-0

Adler (USC) def. Stasch (ECU) 6-2, 6-2