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March 23, 2011

COLUMBIA, S.C. – South Carolina gave archrival Clemson all it could handle Wednesday afternoon, but the No. 58 Tigers came out on top 5-2 in men’s tennis action at the USC Fieldhouse. In a match moved indoors due to high winds, the Gamecocks narrowly lost the doubles point, and Clemson was able to rally back from early deficits in most of the singles matches. South Carolina junior Ivan Machado was a two-time winner as he and Nick Jones fought out a tiebreaker to win at No. 1 doubles, and Machado fought for a tight win in No. 1 singles.

“A rivalry match is always great because it’s charged with energy from start to finish,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “Our guys played with that energy today, and it was one of our more competitive outings of the season. They all played hard, and every person on the team was fighting to win this match. I know it’s my alma mater, but I wanted to win just as much as anyone else today, and it’s disappointing that we came out a little short.”

The match was a battle right from the onset as the doubles point was decided at the last moment. Clemson took the early advantage with an 8-5 win in the No. 3 match, but the Gamecocks were up a break in the other two matches heading into the final games. On Court 1, Machado and Jones were serving for the match at 7-5. After each side smacked a winner, Machado’s double fault gave the Tigers the edge, which they held onto to get back on serve 7-6. Zach Rigsby fought back from several deuces to hold serve, and Jones also held to send the match to a tiebreaker. Trailing 4-2 in the tiebreaker, Machado took control, putting the finishing touches on the next three points to put the Gamecocks up 5-4. His touch volley went wide to even things at 5-5, but Jones stepped up and crushed the return of Rigsby’s serve for a clean winner and a 6-5 South Carolina lead. Jones finished off the win with a good serve and another strong forehand that left Rigsby’s volley in the net.

As the No. 1 match was entering its tiebreaker, the No. 2 match was heating up for the Tigers. South Carolina’s Alexander Kostanov and Chip Cox were up a break at 7-6. Clemson’s Derek DiFazio and Robert Pietrucha broke Kostanov’s serve and consolidated to get back on terms at 8-7. Serving now to stay in the match just moments after Machado and Jones secured their win, the Gamecocks’ No. 2 team stumbled again, allowing the Tigers to clinch the doubles point.

South Carolina kicked off singles with a bang as Cox scored a quick 6-1 first-set win over Kevin Galloway in the No. 3 match. The Gamecocks were up a break early in two of the other three matches on court as well. The Tigers battle back in one of those two, however, as Gerardo Meza rallied from behind to win the first set from Jones 7-5 in the No. 4 match. He went on to close out the second set by the same score, giving the Tigers a 2-0 advantage. Kostanov dropped a 6-4, 6-4 decision to Yannick Maden in the No. 2 match to put the Tigers within a point of the team victory.

The Gamecocks would not go quietly, however, In the No. 1 match, Machado had his ground strokes dialed in for a 7-5 first-set victory, only to see DiFazio jump out to a 5-1 lead in the second set. Machado mounted a furious rally that saw him win the next five games to go up a break at 6-5. He punctuated his third service break with a bruising cross-court forehand passing shot. DiFazio answered with a break to send the match to a tiebreaker – the second of the day for Machado. The Gamecocks’ top player used another cross-court forehand and a service winner to go up 2-1 in the tiebreaker. The two players split their service points through a 5-4 South Carolina advantage. Serving for the win, Machado converted both his points to put the Gamecocks on the board.

Meanwhile, Cox had a battle on his hands back on Court 3. Galloway had won the second set 6-4 and opened the third set by breaking Cox’s serve. He maintained that edge until Cox broke back in the eighth game. The Gamecock freshman won his next service game and had two match points that Galloway fought off. Leading 6-5, Cox steamrolled his opponent to a 40-love advantage in the deciding game. Galloway staved off two more match points before a deep forehand from Cox left him off balance and his shot in the net to deliver the Gamecocks’ second point of the afternoon.

The last two matches to start – Johannes Pulsfort in the No. 5 match and Harry Menzies in the No. 6 – would determine the outcome. Menzies had a rough start, dropping his opening service game and dropped the first set 6-2. In the second set, neither he nor Rigsby could hold serve through the first five games until the Tigers’ No. 6 player finally took a 2-4 edge. It became one that he would not relinquish, winning the set 6-4 and clinching the team victory for the Tigers.

South Carolina returns to SEC action this weekend, traveling to No. 23 Ole Miss for a 2 p.m. match on Sat., March 26. The Gamecocks return home the following weekend to host No. 28 Vanderbilt and No. 14 Kentucky.

No. 58 Clemson 5, South Carolina 2

Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 1, 2)
1. Ivan Machado / Nick Jones (SC) def. Yannick Maden/Zachary Rigsby (CU) 9-8 (5)
2. Derek DiFazio/Robert Pietrucha (CU) def. Alexander Kostanov / Chip Cox (SC) 9-7
3. Juan Bolona/Dominique Made (CU) def. Harry Menzies / Chris Sheehan (SC) 8-5

Singles (Order of Finish: (4, 2, 1, 3, 6, 5)
1. Ivan Machado (SC) def. (106) Derek DiFazio (CU) 7-5, 7-6 (4)
2. Yannick Maden (CU) def. Alexander Kostanov (SC) 6-4, 6-4
3. Chip Cox (SC) def. Kevin Galloway (CU) 6-1, 4-6, 7-5
4. Gerardo Meza (CU) def. Nick Jones (SC) 7-5, 7-5
5. Dominque Maden (CU) def. Johannes Pulsfort (SC) 7-5, 6-2
6. Zach Rigsby (CU) def. Harry Menzies (SC) 6-2, 6-4