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Jan. 12, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 39 South Carolina opened its 2013 season with a 6-1 victory over Charlotte Saturday morning at the USC Indoor Facility in the first half of a men’s tennis doubleheader. After a strong showing to win the doubles point, the Gamecocks won the first three singles matches, including Thiago Pinheiro’s 7-5, 7-5 effort to deliver the team victory.

The Gamecocks sprang into the season with all three doubles teams building leads early. The No. 2 match provided the first result as Kyle Koch and Harry Menzies defeated Forrest Edwards and Alex Calott 8-3. The Gamecocks got an early break to go up 3-1 and added another two games later for a commanding 5-1 lead. Crisp volleys marked the final game of the set as Menzies followed his serve with a quick volley through the middle of the court to clinch the victory. Ben Barnette and Thiago Pinheiro delivered the doubles point for the Gamecocks with an 8-3 win over Krzysztof Kwasniewicz and Alex Weber in the No. 3 matchup. Barnette and Pinheiro got a service break right out of the gate, taking a 2-0 lead that expanded to 5-2 before the duo cruised to the 8-3 victory.

Junior Chip Cox made quick work of Jordi Massallé Ferrer in the No. 2 singles spot to double the Gamecocks’ lead to 2-0. The two traded service breaks to open the match, but Cox kept the pressure up, taking a 3-1 lead and never looking back. His steady aggression delivered a 6-1, 6-1 win to get the Gamecocks started on the right foot.

The matches on the other three courts were much tighter, but South Carolina won the first set of each. While Tsvetan Mihov and Koch rode early service breaks to the end of their 6-4 first-set victories in the Nos. 1 and 3 spots, respectively, Pinheiro needed a late surge to get past Alex Calott in the No. 4 match. The two were on serve through eight games when Pinheiro pressed Calott into a long service game that the 49er sophomore eventually held to stay on pace in the set. After a strong hold to go up 6-5, Pinheiro carried the momentum into the next game. With big groundstrokes, he set up a defensive lob from Calott, which Pinheiro crushed to take the set 7-5.

After winning his first set 6-4, Mihov was in a standoff with Jack Williams through much of the second. The two battled for every point to stay on serve before Mihov fought out a break to go up 5-4. In his first match in the Garnet and Black, the Bulgarian held his final service game to put the Gamecocks up 3-0. On Court 4, Pinheiro was in a similar struggle, although the Brazilian yielded the first service break to fall behind Calott 3-4. With resilience, Pinheiro wasted little time in breaking through Calott’s serve in the next game. After fighting to hold his serve for a 6-5 advantage, Pinheiro set up two match points before a definitive overhead finished off the second to clinch the team victory for South Carolina.

Edwards got the 49ers on the board in the No. 3 match, scoring a comeback victory over Koch (4-6, 7-6 (5), 1-0 (6)). Menzies took on Charlotte’s Paul Cisti in the No. 5 match, and Barnette faced Nate Shanok in the No. 6 contest. After falling behind early in his first set, Menzies won four of the next five games but saw Cisti close the set 6-4. Menzies came back to take the next set winning 6-2 and then fought hard in a back and forth tiebreaker to come out with an 11-9 victory. Barnette, meanwhile, was dominant in both of his sets, winning 6-1 and 6-0.

The Gamecocks are back in action at 4 p.m. this afternoon, hosting Presbyterian in the second half of the doubleheader.

#39 South Carolina 6, Charlotte 1

Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 3)
1. Chip Cox/Tsvetan Mihov (SC) led Jordi Massallé Ferrer/Jack Williams (CHA) 6-5 susp.
2. Kyle Koch/Harry Menzies (SC) def. Forrest Edwards/Alex Calott (CHA) 8-3
3. Ben Barnette/Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Krzysztof Kwasniewicz/Alex Weber (CHA) 8-3

Singles (Order of Finish: 2, 1, 4, 3, 6, 5)
1. Tsvetan Mihov (SC) def. Jack Williams (CHA) 6-4, 6-4
2. Chip Cox (SC) def. Jordi Massallé Ferrer (CHA) 6-1, 6-1
3. Forrest Edwards (CHA) def. Kyle Koch (SC) 4-6, 7-6 (5), 1-0 (6)
4. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) def. Alex Calott (CHA) 7-5, 7-5
5. Harry Menzies (SC) def. Paul Cisti (CHA) 4-6, 6,-2, 1-0 (9)
6. Ben Barnette (SC) def. Nate Shanok (CHA) 6-1, 6-0