April 10, 2005
Starkville, Miss. – For the fourth time in the month of April, the Carolina men’s tennis team knocked off a Top-25 team, defeating No. 15 Mississippi State, 5-2 in Starkville, Miss. on Sunday afternoon. The win was the fourth in a row for the No. 22 Gamecocks (18-7, 6-4 SEC) over the Bulldogs (11-7, 6-4 SEC), and matches the highest win total for USC since the 1999 season, when they went 18-12 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. South Carolina’s number one doubles team of Pedro Rodrigues and Geraldo Knorr recorded their fourth straight upset of a ranked doubles team, and are now a perfect 5-0 in doubles matches this month.
In the doubles matches, USC took a quick lead for the doubles point when Tom Eklund and Jaime Cuellar won their second straight road match, defeating Philippe Frayssinoux and Florent Girod 8-4 at No. 2. Carolina would clinch their sixth straight doubles point on court one, where Rodrigues and Knorr upset 37th-ranked Luiz Carvalho and Jose-Carols Pinto in a tiebreaker, 9-8(2). The second of four tiebreak sets would come at No. 3 doubles, where Gamecocks’ senior Ben Atkinson and sophomore Dmitry Babenko dropped just their third match since March 11, falling 9-8(4) to Ivan Bjelica and Pierre Mouillon.
The Gamecocks would carry the momentum from doubles into the singles matches, winning the first set at four of six matches. After Carvalho leveled the match at one point each with a straight-set defeat of Babenko at No. 4 singles, Atkinson put Carolina on top for good with his own straight set win, defeating Girod 6-3, 6-4 at on court six. USC sophomore Rodrigues would make it 3-1 Carolina with a pair of 6-4 set wins sandwiched around a 6-1 second set loss to Frayssinoux at No. 2 singles. MSU’s Mouillon would earn the Bulldogs’ final point of the afternoon with a come-from-behind three-set win over Cuellar at No. 3 singles. The loss leaves the USC freshman on the wrong side of a result in consecutive matches for the first time this season. Junior Tom Eklund, currently ranked 41st by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, would clinch the Gamecocks’ fourth 18-win season since joining the SEC in 1992, with two set-tiebreaker wins at No. 1 singles over Bjelica. The final point would be won at No. 5 singles, where Carolina junior Knorr earned his second victory in his last three outings, defeating Pinto 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
The Gamecocks, currently in a three-way tie for fourth place in the SEC, will host SEC co-leader Florida in their season finale, next Saturday, April 16. The match, which will be Senior Day in Columbia, is set to begin at 2 p.m. at the Sam Daniel Tennis Facility on USC’s campus. Carolina will then make the short drive down I-20 to Athens, Ga. for the SEC Tournament, beginning Thursday, April 21.