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March 1, 2013

COLUMBIA, S.C. – No. 43 South Carolina lost its SEC opener 4-1 to No. 11 Texas A&M Friday night at Carolina Tennis Center. The Gamecocks (9-5) played tough doubles matches with the point coming down to the wire in the No. 3 match, and the Aggies (9-4) surged ahead early in several singles match. South Carolina junior Tsvetan Mihov turned in a workmanlike win at No. 1 singles, and Andrew Adams won his first set to highlight the Gamecock effort.

“We got off to a slow start in doubles, but the guys withstood the initial pressure from A&M and got back to even on two courts,” South Carolinad head coach Josh Goffi said. “But, it hurt us and became the story of the day, carrying over to singles. Some guys came out and played well, but early in the match A&M played tough tennis. They have good players who are used to winning, and they basically made us blink first to run away with the first sets. It was that they were tougher than us in those first couple games that made the difference. Once we realized that we could be in the match, we settled in but it was an uphill battle at that point. That’s the adjustment we need to make for Sunday.”

Doubles came down to the top and bottom of the lineup after the Aggies struck first with a win in the No. 2 match. After falling behind early in the battle of top-35 tandems at the top of the order, No. 33 Chip Cox and Tsvetan Mihov took advantage of a series of miscues from the nation’s 17th-ranked duo of Junior Ore and Jackson Withrow to get back on serve at 4-4. Meanwhile, on Court 3, Ben Barnette and Thiago Pinheiro were on serve against Jeremy Efferding and Jordan Szabo by the same score. With the top teams challenging to break each other but holding on, the No. 3 match became a battle for who could consolidate their service break by holding their own in the next game. Mihov easily held serve to knot the No. 1 match at 6-6, but Barnette/Pinheiro suffered their second-straight break to fall behind 5-7. Cox/Mihov took control with a great return game, putting the Aggies on the defensive to get a break to go up 7-6. A Texas A&M ace sealed the doubles point, though, as Efferding/Szabo closed out the 8-5 win on Court 3 before the No. 1 match could be decided.

In singles, Adams jumped out to an early lead in the No. 2 match against Harrison Andrews, and Mihov warmed up to an early 4-1 lead over Ore at the top of the lineup. But the Aggies were the aggressors on every other court, earning at least one service break in the first four games of the other four matches. Texas A&M won the first sets of the Nos. 3 and 4 matches in quick succession, and Behzad Minavi made it a trio of early wins with a first-set victory over Harry Menzies in the No. 6 match as well.

Adams closed out his first set 6-2 over Andrews to get things going the Gamecocks’ way as Kyle Koch got back on serve in the No. 5 match and Mihov shook off a late service break by getting it right back to take his first set 6-4 over Ore. While he surged ahead early in his second set, some of his teammates were finding their footing as well. Koch’s first-set battle with Szabo went into a tiebreak, and Cox and Menzies were on serve midway through their second sets. Koch and Szabo battled back and forth in the tiebreak with each fighting off a pair of set points, but the Aggie’s ranked player eventually got the better of Koch to take the first set 7-6 (10).

Shortly after that decision, No. 90 Shane Vinsant gave the Aggies a 2-0 lead with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Pinheiro in the No. 4 match. Andrews leveled the No. 2 match with Adams, winning the second set 6-4 just ahead of Mihov’s 6-4, 6-3 win over Ore to make it a 2-1 Aggie advantage.

Cox was locked in a hard-fought second set with Efferding as the two traded service breaks to go into a tiebreak. Menzies and Minavi were in a similar struggle on Court 6 with neither player able to hold serve in a four-game stretch that put the Aggies’ sophomore up 6-5 with a chance to serve for the win. A series of long baseline rallies ended in a Menzies backhand sailing long to give Minavi the 6-1, 7-5 victory to bring the Aggies within a point of the team victory. The No. 3 second-set tiebreak saw Cox fight off one match point with a beautiful backhand up the line at the end of a long rally, but Efferding closed out the win with a backhand passing shot for a 7-6 (5) win.

South Carolina is back in action on Sunday afternoon against another top-20 foe as No. 18 Clemson comes to Carolina Tennis Center for a 1 p.m. match. Parking and admission to the match are free.

#11 Texas A&M 4, #43 South Carolina 1

Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 3)
1. (33) Chip Cox/Tsvetan Mihov (SC) led (17) Junior Ore/Jackson Withrow (TAM) 7-6 suspended
2. (21) Harrison Adams/Shane Vinsant (TAM) def. Kyle Koch/Harry Menzies (SC) 8-1
3. Jeremy Efferding/Jordan Szabo (TAM) def. Ben Barnette/Thiago Pinheiro (SC) 8-5

Singles (Order of Finish: 4, 1, 6, 3*)
1. (105) Tsvetan Mihov (SC) def. Junior Ore (TAM) 6-4, 6-3
2. Harrison Andrews (TAM) led Andrew Adams (SC) 2-6, 6-4, 2-0 suspended
3. Jeremy Efferding (TAM) def. Chip Cox (SC) 6-0, 7-6 (5)
4. (90) Shane Vinsant (TAM) def. Thiago Pinheiro (SC) 6-3, 6-1
5. Jordan Szabo (TAM) led Kyle Koch (SC) 7-6 (10), 5-2 suspended
6. Behzad Minavi (TAM) def. Harry Menzies (SC) 6-1, 7-5