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April 6, 2005


Columbia, S.C. – The South Carolina men’s tennis team earned its fourth straight win over Top-25 opposition on Wednesday afternoon, topping archrival Clemson 6-1 in Columbia. The 22nd-ranked Gamecocks (17-6, 5-3 SEC) have now won 10 of their last 11 matches against the No. 24 Tigers (21-8, 3-3 ACC), and now lead the all-time series 23-13. Reigning SEC Player of the Week Tom Eklund picked up his 95th combined career victory and freshman Jaime Cuellar earned the final point of the match with his 25th singles victory of the year.

On a warm, breezy day in the state capital, the two sides renewed their heated rivalry for the 36th time, with the match beginning at doubles. On courts two and three, the teams split victories, with Carolina’s Ben Atkinson and Dmitry Babenko winning their fourth doubles match in their last five outings, 8-4 over Ryan Cook and Brett Twente at No. 3 doubles. On court two, Eklund and Cuellar dropped just their fourth match in a month, falling 8-5 to Sander Konig and Clement Reix. South Carolina’s number one doubles team of Pedro Rodrigues and Geraldo Knorr then won their third match in a row at No. 1 doubles, defeating Nathan Thompson and Ryan Young 8-5 to clinch USC’s fourth straight doubles point, and fifth in their last six matches.

As the match moved to singles, Carolina was attempting to clinch the win and avoid losing consecutive matches to the Tigers for the first time since 1988-89. After USC sophomore Babenko has his five-match winning streak stopped at No. 4 singles by Young tying the match at one, any doubt of the outcome would be erased as the Gamecocks would not lose another set on their way to their fifth all-time victory over Clemson by a five point or greater margin of victory.

Rodrigues would give Carolina the lead for good 15 minutes after Babenko’s match, when the sophomore right-hander from Brazil overpowered Konig at No. 2 singles, winning in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4. The lead would be two just under two minutes later as USC’s only senior, Atkinson, won for the 17th time this year, defeating Clint Boling at No. 6 singles, 6-3, 6-3. Atkinson, who has lost consecutive matches just once this season (Feb. 6 and 10), rebounded from his defeat against Georgia at the weekend, and clinched the victory with a backhand slice that dropped just over the net in the deuce court.

The attention would turn to courts one and five, where Eklund held a 5-4 lead and Knorr had a 5-1 advantage respectively. The matches would wrap-up within 90 seconds of each other, but Eklund, ranked 41st by the ITA this week, would claim the honor of clinching the match with his 6-4, 6-4 win over No. 22 Nathan Thompson. The junior from Sweden, who this week became the first Gamecock to be named SEC Player of the Week twice in a career, won his fifth match of his last six tries against ranked opponents and now has three victories this season over players ranked in the ITA’s Top 25 (#5 Ken Skupski, LSU; #13 John Isner, UGA; #22 Nathan Thompson, CU). Knorr would finish his match shortly thereafter, wrapping up his 10th singles win of the season with a 6-4, 6-2 defeat of Twente at No. 5 singles.

Cuellar, who is off to the best start to a career in school history, added to his totals on Wednesday, defeating Reix in a third-set tiebreaker at No. 3 singles, 5-7, 6-4, 1-0(10-8). The El Salvadorian native dropped the first set, but for the sixth time this season came from behind to win the match after dropping the first set. After Cuellar and Reix traded four straight service breaks in the middle of the second set, the USC freshman would get the final break in, winning the second set 6-4. In the tiebreaker, Cuellar got off to a quick start and never looked back, forcing Reix’s forehand return into the net on his second match-point opportunity. Cuellar is now 11-3 in three-set matches this year, and 25-8 on the year in singles contests. The win gives USC a 25-match winner in singles for the 11th consecutive year. Cuellar, who leads the team in victories, is vying to become the eighth Gamecock to ever lead the team in singles and in doubles, and the first since Vladimir Pavicevic did it in 1998.

The Gamecocks return to the court on Friday, April 8, when they visit No. 4 Ole Miss. The match against the Rebels in Oxford is set to begin at 1 p.m. (ET) USC then travels down the road to Starkville, Miss. to face the Bulldogs of Mississippi State at 12 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 10. The match against the Rebels, who USC upset 4-1 in Columbia last season, will be broadcast live at, while the match in Starkville will have live stats available at MSU’s official website, Carolina returns home the following weekend to wrap up their season against the Gators of Florida on Saturday, April 16. The Senior Day match will begin at 2 p.m. and live stats will be available at