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March 4, 2005


Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina Gamecocks earned their first win over a ranked opponent on Friday, defeating No. 38 Arkansas 5-2 in Columbia. The win snaps a two-match skid for Carolina (10-3, 1-0 SEC), and is USC’s third win in SEC openers in the last four years. The match was a typical SEC match, with three singles matches going into three sets and the match-clinching point coming at No. 6 singles. The Gamecocks sent Arkansas (2-5, 0-1 SEC) to their fifth consecutive loss of the season, and earned their 10th all-time win over the Razorbacks.

South Carolina came out strong in the doubles competition, winning two matches and Ben Atkinson and Dmitry Babenko were leading 7-6 over Talley Parker and Andrei Nicoara when the match was suspended. At No. 2 doubles, Jaime Cuellar and Tom Eklund regained their form from earlier this season, earning the first break at 3-1 over Imraan Ismail and Matt Roberts. The Gamecock pair cruised from there, never allowing the Razorbacks within two games, en route to an 8-3 win. On court one, Pedro Rodrigues and Geraldo Knorr took on Rohan Gajjar and Adrians Zguns in a classic SEC dual. The match was close from the beginning, and the greatest lead of the match was two games, with USC holding both of those at 6-4 and 7-5. The teams traded five service breaks in the pro set, with three of those coming in consecutive games in the middle of the match. The last of those breaks, which put Carolina up 5-4, was the turning point, as the match stayed on serve the rest of the way. That allowed USC sophomore Rodrigues to serve for the match, and the Gamecocks took the doubles point and the match with an 8-6 win.

Carolina would take its 1-0 advantage into the singles competition, where Eklund easily downed Zguns at No.1 singles, 6-4, 6-2. The Razorbacks, already having one singles match won, evened the match at two, as Gajjar defeated Rodrigues 6-4, 6-1 on court two.

A long afternoon was then guaranteed, as all three of the remaining matches went into three sets. The first match to three sets was No. 6 singles, which pitted Atkinson against Michael Jung. Jung took the first set with relative ease 6-3, but Atkinson came back strong and won the second set 7-5. The senior from Yorkshire, England and Jung stayed on serve until Atkinson earned a crucial service break to take a 5-3 lead. He then forced Jung to commit three errors in the final game en route to the match clinching 6-4 set win.

The final two matches had Cuellar and Babenko for USC against Ismail and Matt Simpson of Arkansas at Nos. 4 and 5 respectively. The matches were virtual opposites of each other, with Cuellar and Ismail battling it out in a first set tiebreaker which Cuellar won 7-6(7). Ismail would come back and easily win the second set 6-2. The final set was just as easy for Cuellar has the previous one was for Ismail. Cuellar won the first game on serve, and then broke Ismail to 2-0, before running away to win the set 6-0. On court 5, Babenko dropped the first set 6-3, but came from 5-3 down to win the middle set 7-5. The last set in the match was tight until Babenko broke to 5-3 and an unforced error from Simpson secured Babenko’s fifth singles win of the season.

The Gamecocks will return to action this Sunday when they wrap up the week hosting No. 7 Louisiana State. The match is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Sam Daniel’s Tennis Center.