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March 14, 2012

CLEMSON, S.C. – South Carolina senior Ivan Machado snatched victory from a late rally by No. 71 Clemson to give the No. 48 Gamecocks a 4-3 victory Wednesday afternoon at Hoke Sloan Tennis Center. Each team carried momentum for a stretch before South Carolina’s elder statesman won tiebreakers in his second and third sets to secure the win in his final career match against the Gamecocks’ arch rival.

“What a college tennis match,” South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. “Win or lose, that’s why college sports are so great. When [Nick] Jones and [Ivan] Machado were the last ones on the court, they both competed harder than I’ve ever seen them compete before. We came through because of them, and it was awesome to see. Both teams were only points away from winning the match, but Ivan came through. I am extremely proud of him for digging so deep. That’s a memory he will never forget – clinching against your biggest rival in the last match, third-set tiebreak in your senior year. That’s the tennis equivalent of a last-second play to win.”

The Gamecocks got off to a slow start as the Tigers claimed the doubles point with efficient 8-3 wins at the Nos. 1 and 2 spots. The freshman tandem of Kyle Koch and Carl Eguez closed out doubles play with an 8-2 win in the No. 3 spot, but South Carolina already had its work cut out for it in singles trailing 0-1 in the match.

All six Gamecocks responded, building up first-set leads on every court. Koch was the first to close out his match with a workman-like 6-2, 6-2 win over Zachary Rigsby in the No. 6 spot, which evened the match at 1-1. South Carolina would surge ahead 3-1 with wins from Andrew Adams and Thiago Pinheiro in the Nos. 3 and 5 matches, respectively. Pinheiro justified his newly earned national ranking in singles, as he came in at No. 117 in the rankings released last night, with his 6-4, 7-6 win over Hunter Harrington to give the Gamecocks their first lead of the day. Adams finished close behind with a 6-4, 6-0 victory. It was the sixth time in 12 dual-match victories that the freshman posted a 6-0 second set.

Leading 3-1, the Gamecocks still had work to do as Clemson led in the final three matches on court. Having won the first set in the Nos. 1 and 2 matches, the Tigers were ahead in the third set in the No. 4 match as well. South Carolina looked to swing the momentum from the top of the order as Nick Jones picked up a 6-4 win in his second set with No. 49 Yannick Maden, who had won the first 6-4. In the No. 2 match, Machado, ranked No. 104 in the country this week, closed out a hard-fought second set against Gerardo Meza with a 7-6 (0) victory.

With the Gamecocks up 3-2 after Dominique Maden completed his comeback with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Chip Cox, the last two matches were tied early in their third sets. Jones and Maden were at a stalemate through eight games, most of which were settled after one or more deuce points. Meanwhile, Machado had shrugged off an early service break to get back to even in his match. He surged ahead playing aggressive tennis in the match’s eighth game with a break for a 5-3 advantage. Meza would not relent, though, playing some of his best tennis with the match on the line as he fought past a match point to win the game. He carried that momentum through to win the next three games.

Back on Court 1, Jones was giving Maden everything he had, stretching him in his final service game. The Tigers’ junior held on to go up 5-4, leaving it up to Jones to hold serve to stay in the match. With the home crowd growing more rowdy the tighter the matches got, Maden jumped out to an early lead in the game. Jones fought off two match points before finally succumbing 6-4, which leveled the team match a 3-3.

With all attention on Court 2, Machado jumped out to a Love-40 lead in the final game of the set to send the match to a tiebreaker, putting Meza on his heels. In a setting where every point was pivotal, the only fourth-year senior on the Gamecocks’ roster showed his young teammates how to handle the pressure of the bitter rivalry. Machado surged ahead early and yielded just two points to the Tigers’ sophomore, delivering the team victory to the Gamecocks in the most dramatic fashion possible.

“In the last games, I told Ivan that the hardest thing to do is close out a match,” South Carolina assistant coach Matt Lucas said. “He did a great job of staying in the present and not worrying about missed opportunities to get back into the match. He got up Love-40 in that last game and never looked back. He played patiently aggressive in the tiebreaker and took his opponent out of it early. Ivan showed great heart with all the attention of an intense crowd on him, and I’m really proud of the way he handled that situation.”

South Carolina will be back in action on Sun., March 18, with a doubleheader at Carolina Tennis Center starting at 10 a.m. The Gamecocks open against College of Charleston with their match against Coastal Carolina scheduled to begin at 4 p.m.

No. 48 South Carolina 4, No. 71 Clemson 3

Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3)
1. (53) Yannick Maden/Zachary Rigsby (CU) def. (64) Chip Cox/Nick Jones (SC) 8-3
2. Ayrton Wibowo/Cedric Willems (CU) def. Ivan Machado/Thiago Pinheiro (SC) 8-3
3. Kyle Koch/Carl Eguez (SC) def. Dominique Maden/Wes Moran (CU) 8-2

Singles (Order of Finish: 6, 3, 5, 4, 1, 2)
1. (49) Yannick Maden (CU) def. Nick Jones (SC) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
2. (104) Ivan Machado (SC) def. Gerardo Meza (CU) 5-7, 7-6 (0), 7-6 (2)
3. Andrew Adams (SC) def. Ayrton Wibowo (CU) 6-4, 6-0
4. Dominique Maden (CU) def. Chip Cox (SC) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
5. (117) Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Hunter Harrington (SC) 6-4, 7-6 (4)
6. Kyle Koch (SC) def. Zachary Rigsby (CU) 6-2, 6-2