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Feb. 9, 2012

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – No. 48 South Carolina got a heart-stopping 4-3 win at No. 42 Wake Forest Thursday afternoon as the Gamecocks’ newest freshman, Thiago Pinheiro, won a third-set tie-breaker to clinch the match. South Carolina (7-0) took an early lead in doubles and held off a late charge from the Demon Deacons, who stretched the final two matches to three sets in battling for the victory.

“As a whole, the quality of tennis on our side wasn’t as good as I would have liked, but as a team we competed extremely well,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “Our young Brazilian [Thiago Pinheiro] showed that he has the heart of a lion today. This team gained a lot of maturity and experience with the way we came through in the end. My hat goes off to the Wake Forest team. They competed extremely well today.”

The Gamecocks took an early lead with the doubles point. The Demon Deacons won the first doubles contest, but the Gamecocks’ No. 3 duo of Chip Cox and Andrew Adams evened things with an 8-3 win over Conner Sherwood and Alex Tsai. The point came down to the No. 2 matchup of Ivan Machado and Thiago Pinheiro against Danny Kreman and Adam Lee. The Gamecocks’ Brazilian tandem sealed the early advantage with an 8-4 victory.

The Gamecocks kept the pressure on, going ahead in the first sets of four of the six singles matches, but it was Wake Forest that struck first on the scoreboard as No. 115 Kreyman defeated Nick Jones 6-4, 6-0 at the top of the order. Jones’ doubles partner, Kyle Koch, settled the score in his No. 5 singles match, though, following up a decisive 6-1 first-set win with a 6-4 second set over Sherwood to put South Carolina back on top 2-1.

In the No. 4 contest, Cox took an early advantage over Lee with a 6-3 first-set victory. In the second, he needed just five games to surge ahead then held off his opponent for a 6-4 win that made it a 3-1 South Carolina lead.

The last three matches on court were going back and forth. In the No. 2 contest, Machado jumped out to a 5-2 lead over David Hopkins, but saw the Demon Deacons’ senior rally back to win the set 7-5. South Carolina’s senior got a service break to turn a 2-3 deficit into a 4-3 lead, only to see Hopkins do the same to go up 5-4. The set came down to the final games with Hopkins getting a late service break to post the 7-5 victory and bring the Demon Deacons within a point of the Gamecocks in the match.

Adams posted a routine 6-2 first-set win over Prabhakar in the No. 3 matchup before Prabhakar won the second set by the same score. He went on to get an early break in the third for a 3-0 advantage before Adams rallied to get back on serve. The Wake Forest senior was not upended by the comeback, however, and went on to win the set 6-3 to even the team score at 3-3.

Playing in the No. 6 spot, Pinheiro got off to a similar start as Adams, claiming the first set 6-3. Wake Forest’s Tsai got a service break early in the second, though, and held on for a 6-4 win to send yet another match into the third set. The set see-sawed back and forth with neither player able to take full control. Fitting for the nip-and-tuck nature of the team scoring, the final set between two freshmen came down to a tiebreaker. Playing singles in just his third dual match this season, Pinheiro showed unprecedented poise in taking control of the tiebreak with an early 3-0 lead and went on to allow Tsai just two points for the 7-6 (2) victory.

“It was a great win for Thiago in his first experience in a pressure situation,” South Carolina assistant coach Matt Lucas said. “He showed great composure during the tiebreak. It is a unique pressure a player feels when the entire match comes down to one tiebreak, and he competed exactly like we expect our team to.”

South Carolina wraps up its three-match road swing against Atlantic Coast Conference schools at No. 51 NC State on Sat., Feb. 11.

No. 48 South Carolina 4, No. 42 Wake Forest 3

Doubles (Order of Finish: 1, 3, 2)
1. David Hopkins/Amogh Prabhakar (WF) def. Nick Jones / Kyle Koch (SC) 8-3
2. Ivan Machado / Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def, Danny Kreyman/Adam Lee (WF) 8-4
3. Chip Cox / Andrew Adams (SC) def. Conner Sherwood/Alex Tsai (WF) 8-3

Singles (Order of Finish: 1, 5, 4, 2, 3, 6)
1. (115) Danny Kreyman (WF) def. Nick Jones (SC) 6-4, 6-0
2. David Hopkins (WF) def. Ivan Machado (SC) 7-5, 7-5
3. Amogh Prabhakar (WF) def. Andrew Adams (SC) 2-6, 6-2, 6-3
4. Chip Cox (SC) def. Adam Lee (WF) 6-3, 6-4
5. Kyle Koch (SC) def. Conner Sherwood (WF) 6-1, 6-4
6. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Alex Tsai (WF) 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (2)