Like two pariahs sharing shelter in a storm, Kentucky and Vanderbilt have been quiet companions in →
Tom Jomby’s Journal
Wednesday afternoon, the University of Kentucky men’s tennis team defeated the No. 1 team in the country, Ohio State, 4-1.
The No. 14 Kentucky men’s tennis team was excited to play against the Buckeyes for a second time this season after their deceiving first opposition in February, losing 4-0.
“ I have to admit losing 4-0 on the road over there was a tough one,” said senior Alejandro Gomez. “We had match point in doubles; we had chances on the 3 remaining matches. That was really tough to swallow but it made us work harder.”
Wednesday was a new day, and a new day means a new match.
“ I was so excited to play this match,” said freshman Jerry Lopez. “It’s an exciting feeling to play the best team in the country.”
It didn’t start the way head coach Cedric Kauffmann would have dreamed. “The first 20 minutes of the doubles were not very good,” he admitted. “The double point is so important, I was a little worried.”
On court 1, the No. 20 doubles team in the nation, Kevin Lai and I lost 8-4 against Peter Kobelt and Ralf Steinback.
On court 2, Beck Pennington and Alejandro Gomez were losing 5-0 before they started their unbelievable comeback. They won 7 out of the 8 following games to be leading 7-6 and having their first match point but ended up getting broken. It all went down to a stressful tiebreak. They had to come back again in this tiebreaker when losing 6-4 and having to save two match points to finally clinch an 8-7 win.
On court 3, Ryuji Hirooka and Nils Ellefsen were also down a break early. Losing 4-1, they broke back to make it to 4-4. They broke Ohio State’s serve at 6-5 and were in position to clinch the doubles point, but Tom Jomby three-set singles clinched the match against #1 Ohio State, but hey got broken and forced a tiebreak — as if it weren’t suspenseful enough already. After 75 minutes of doubles action, UK won the doubles point and went back to the locker room win the 1-0 overall lead.
After the coaches left the locker room before singles play, I told the guys, “ Today, I got my point guys, we just need two more.” Immediately after I said that, Alejandro Gomez started feeling so excited and yelled, “ Hey I got mine too bro!” And after that Beck Pennington screamed, “Hey I’m not losing to this guy again.”
Alejandro Gomez kept his promise, winning straight sets, 6-2, 6-2, against No. 75 Herrko Pollanen. He gave us the 2-0 lead in the match.
Around 20 or 30 minutes after Gomez finished his match, I looked at the scoreboard and I saw sophomore No. 113 Beck Pennington up 6-4, 5-4 and about to win his match too. I knew he would finish and that the match would come down to either me or Grant Roberts, who was in his third set too. In my mind I was like, “They did what they said in the locker room, now it’s my turn.”
I am not going to lie, when I heard the screaming from court 3 following Beck’s win, it gave me a hell of a lot of motivation.
I knew my opponent, Peter Kobelt, as it’s the third time I had played him in a year. I know what he does really well but I also know some of his weaknesses. I got off to a rough start, but losing the first set 6-3 didn’t scare me. He wasn’t outplaying me; I was just not playing my best. When it’s like that you know you have your chances. I was playing well in practice for the past three days and I felt like at some point I would finally have chances and make my way up. I had to wait until the middle of the second to break him for the first time. Kobelt’s biggest weapon is his huge serve. I broke him to be up 5-2 and held my serve to win the second set, 6-3.
In the third set, a big crowed showed to the center courts. I started the right way with a break at 2-1 to take the 3-1 lead. I then broke again at 4-1 to take the 5-1 lead. All of the pressure was on my shoulders but I took care of business and served the match out. What a great feeling!
After the match, volunteer coach Anthony Rossi said, “That was a hell of an effort from the guys today.” Cedric Kauffmann added “We can beat a team like Ohio State, but we can also lose to South Carolina. We always have to be prepared.”
The University of Kentucky men’s tennis team is back on the court today to play the 35th-ranked Gamecocks. The final regular season SEC match will be Sunday at 1:00 pm against the No. 15 Florida Gators.
It will also be our Senior Day and you all are more than welcome to come cheer on the Cats.
A video of the Wednesday’s celebrations…
[Photos via UKAthletics.com]
After sweeping the SEC opening weekend last weekend on the road, defeating LSU 5-2 in Baton Rouge and No. 66 Arkansas 6-1 in Fayetteville, the Cats started 2-0 in conference play.
Last Friday, the Wildcats won their biggest match year, beating No. 8 Texas A&M 4-0.
After a deceiving start to the season with four losses and the team missing the National Indoor tournament for the first time in five years, the UK men’s tennis took a step up and started practicing harder, said volunteer coach Anthony Rossi. The coaching staff decided to make practices last longer and more intense.
So yes, I have to say it sucks to wake up three times a week at 6 am to go workout before the tennis practice, but at some point you have to choose where you want to be. I for sure didn’t want to be in Lexington in mid-February when the best 16 teams in the country were all fighting against each other in Houston at the National Indoor. Our team had two solid weeks of practice with I believe 10 good practices in a row. I felt like the level of the team increased, but we had to prove it and play that level we knew we could have during a match.
Last Friday, WE DID IT.
The 22nd-ranked UK Men’s’ Tennis team beat No. 8 Texas A&M 4-0 in the best match the team played so far this year.
With free pizza for all the people attending the event, the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center was packed and I was really happy that a lot of people showed up. It was the first I’ve seen that many people being so loud during the entire match and the crowd had a huge impact boosting our confidence during the match.
It was really easy to get pumped for this match because sophomore Kevin Lai and I were playing the team ranked No. 1 in the country in doubles, Junior Ore and Jackson Withrow. We broke first to lead 6-4 but they broke us back right away to finally push us all the way to a tiebreaker. We did the work winning the tiebreaker 7-4. On court #2 Beck Pennington and Alejandro Gomez played a solid match beating the Aggies 8-5 to earn the double point for UK.
In singles, I was the first one to finish on court 1 with a 6-3, 6-4 win over No. 11 Harrison Adams. Since I lost to Adams last semester at the SEC fall tournament, head coach Cedric Kauffmann knew what I needed to do to be able to get my revenge. We worked on it during the week and I felt really great on the court playing with the game plan we created. I was winning and I could see that Beck winning on court 3 and Jerry winning on court 4, and I was like, ‘Man, we’re going to do this!’
Coach Rossi was making sure I was staying focused on my court and on my game, which can be difficult when you feel like your team is about to win. I also felt like the people pushing me in the crowd at 3-3 in the second set was a huge help as well. I ended up winning in straight sets, giving us a 2-0 lead overall in the match.
Sophomore Beck Pennington, No. 99 in the country, won 6-3, 7-6 against No. 38 Jeremy Efferding for his best win of the year.
“I was really excited to play against a really good opponent today in front of my family that drove all the way from Bowling Green KY,“ Pennington said. “We have been practicing so hard and we really want to win the SEC like two years ago. We have the chance to have a guy like Tom on the team that is one of the best players in the country, and Coach Kauffmann who was a top 200 professional player in the world. I mean we have everything we need to succeed. After this win I can’t be more proud of the team.”
Freshman Jerry Lopez came out clutch on court 4 as he knocked off Junior Ore 6-2, 7-6 to clinch the win for Kentucky. Jerry dominated the whole match, imposing his heavy ball and giving no opportunity for the Aggies to come back.
It’s safe to say that was exciting!
Coach Kauffmann was really proud of the team. “That’s a great win for the boys today,” he said after the match. “I thought us not going to the National Indoors got us really sad and disappointed and we had to make a choice. We had to continue to do the same things we were doing, or we had to take a step up. We decided we were going to step up the physicality in our practices and we aren’t going to stop. This is just one win in the SEC. We will get back to work even harder.”
Lai admitted that beating the No. 1 ranked doubles in the country tastes even better after the team won the match overall. “I look forward to next weekend and playing again against Mississippi State and Ole Miss,” he said. “I now understand that we can compete against everybody in the country and I’m ready for some big things in the coming weeks.”
Kentucky is now 3-0 in the SEC and one of two undefeated teams in the conference, with the Georgia Bulldogs.
The Cats will be back on the court Friday afternoon a 4 p.m against Mississippi and again on Sunday against Ole Miss at 1 pm.
It’s been a really long week for the UK men’s tennis team and myself. Last Sunday, Super Bowl Sunday, we dropped a tough match against Notre Dame again. For the second time in a week we lost 4-3 with a match point in the last remaining match. My fellow sophomore Kevin Lai was up 6-1, 5-3 and couldn’t finish the job. He ended up losing 12 straight points in the second and then lost 6-4 in the third.
You can imagine how long the drive back was with our heads down. No one was talking too much in the bus and the snow made the 6 hour drive an 8 hour drive back. Luckily we had the sleeper bus with TVs, beds, a couch, restrooms… so we can’t really complain about the conditions UK Athletics provides for our travel and we still got to watch the Super Bowl (or only the commercials and halftime show for me, since I still don’t understand the rules of American football. Haha.)
After three days of practice, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, we traveled to Columbus, Ohio to take on No. 5 Ohio State. The match was on Friday, February 7th.
Ohio State’s home win streak was 179 consecutive matches at home before our match and we were so ready to end it and bounce back after those two back-to-back loss against Notre Dame.
The match was scheduled at 6 pm, and as we started the doubles, a big crowd was there, as expected. Really loud, really aggressive. People talk to you between the points. A really tough environment and you have to be really focused to keep your composure and not react to comments. I said nothing, like Wimbledon for example.
Niels Ellefsen and Ryuji Hirooka, still undefeated this year, won 6-4 on Court 3. Beck Pennington and Alejandro Gomez lost in the tie breaker 6-5, so everything came down to court to court 1 where I was playing with Kevin Lai against No. 7 in the nation Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka. We were up 5-4 in the tie break when Kevin served a bomb and Kobelt returned a ball way out, when the reality of college tennis came back to me. We will never know who is right or who is wrong on calls, but truth is that, just like during the entire match , it seemed like the referee had a little favoritism on the court. He didn’t want to judge that the ball landed before the service line in, BUT OUT ! But we were still up 6-5 and had a match point when Ohio State was serving but we missed it and ended up losing the tie break 8-6. That was the third match in row that UK had match point to win the double point.
We knew we still had a chance to come back and win 4 singles out of 6. The toughest part is not to say it, but to go out there and fight all the way. I didn’t start my singles match bad, but when the referee calls some of your balls that land on the line, out, twice in the same game, obviously that makes the task even harder. It also makes it easier for the opponent to get to 4 points in one game. It looked like my opponent Peter Kobelt was good at this cheating game and always found the best moment to make the worst call . Probably the worst I’ve had to face in my college career so far. I mean let’s be honest, we practice every single day and trust me, when you hit a forehand down the line, you see the ball land in front of you, and it is really not hard to judge if the ball touches the line or if it doesn’t. I don’t believe that he has such bad eyes and he would make the wrong call 6 or 7 times without doing it on purpose. Anyways, I ended up losing all the important points, and lost the first set 6-1.
I started playing farther away from the line so this wouldn’t have happen in the second set. Those matches where you are on the road, where you really are by yourself on the court against your opponent, and the crowd is the kind of match where you have to find solutions and keep your composure — somehow, those are the matches that I enjoy the most.
During my match, for example, I wasn’t wearing Kentucky blue shorts but navy blue shorts and people in the stands were reminding me from time to time, if not after every point, that I forgot my shorts in Kentucky. People over there in Ohio State would find anything they could find to bother us. Well, enough to say that it was tough but that’s part of college tennis. Oh, and I also had the chance to play in front of 10 Ohio state football players, big guys that probably don’t even know the rules of tennis but didn’t do anything but scream every time I was missing a shot. They even repeated everything I was telling myself out loud in French. I won the second set 6-3 and when I looked at the overall scoreboard, we were down 3-0.
Jerry Lopez lost 6-1, 6-3 and Kevin Lai lost 6-1, 6-2.
Grant Roberts, Alejandro Gomez and Beck Pennington were all in the third set as well.
Peter Kobelt, who was No. 1 in the country last year, started being more aggressive and broke me twice to win the third 6-1. No need to tell you how bad it feels when you are the one to lose the deciding match.
The play was suspended on the remaining courts. Gomez was down 3-2 in the final set, while Grant Roberts was tied 3-3 in his third. No. 55 Pennington was down 3-2 in the third when they stopped the match. I asked them all how they were playing and they all told me they think they had their match. This made me really upset at myself, but when you left everything you had on the court, there is nothing that can really make you feel better.
Or maybe the taste of McDonalds fries. Here’s the team at McDonald’s on the way back to Lexington…
Talking with Coach Rossi on the way back, he admitted that he thinks we are a good team but we are just lacking some toughness. Out there we were competing but not fighting. The difference is going to come at practice. If the whole team gets tougher together, then we will have more chances against top 10 teams like that. Our ranking dropped to No. 17 in the nation and that is where we belong right now. The fact that we won’t play the national indoor next weekend gives the team a full week of practice, and he told me this is not going to a be fun week.
We were back on the court against No. 50 Michigan State Sunday afternoon. What seems like an easy match, when you look at the rankings, is never the reality. Michigan State tennis team came to Lexington really hungry and you could hear it as they were all warming up scream “GO GREEN, GO WHITE, GO STATE.”
UK won the doubles point with a signature win from Hirooka/Ellefsen 8-4 at doubles #2 and Pennington/Gold won 8-7 on court 3.
In singles, Michigan State quickly squared the match at 1-1 overall, as No. 55 Beck Pennington fell in straight sets to Aaron Pfister of Michigan State.
I gave UK the lead back at 2-1 when I won 6-7, 6-3, 6-3 against Drew Lied.
No. 97 Kevin Lai broke through in three sets as well, knocking off Gijs Linders on court four to give Kentucky the 3-1 lead. Kevin saved 2 match points and that was a really good win for his confidence, said coach Rossi after the match.
Finally, freshman Jerry Lopez, who was down 7-6, 5-1, battled back and fought all the way till his opponent, John Patrick Mullane, cramped in the third set and Jerry won 6-7, 7-6, 6-3. I have to give a big shoutout to coach Rossi for that unbelievable coaching performance this weekend.
When I asked Rossi after the match what went through his mind coaching those two matches, he said that he had mixed feelings throughout the day. Kevin hasn’t been playing so well the past few matches and it was the first time he was coaching him in singles. I asked him what he told him to pump him up and how he found the right words. He admitted that he took a little risk to put even more pressure on Kevin’s shoulders at the beginning of the third set, asking him “Are you going to show me some today or what?” He said he kept telling him to battle and fight and that eventually his moment will come. Saving those two match points are going to give him confidence for the future.
It was a similar situation for Jerry Lopez and Rossi believes Jerry’s attitude was the key to reverse the match. “Jerry arrived from Mexico one month ago and he seems like a hard worker, he hasn’t showed us his best tennis yet, but its coming week after week. “
Watch us close out our matches below:
We only have one more match on the road in Oklahoma City on February 21st before the beginning of SEC regular season play, when we hit the road to LSU on February 28th.
I will keep you updated.
By Tom Jomby on ©5:00 pm
Playing their first major tournament of the year, the University of Kentucky Men’s tennis team lost in the ITA regional final yesterday against No. 29 Notre Dame.
On Friday afternoon UK easily defeated the No. 45 BYU Cougars, 4-0, in 97 minutes exactly. The same day, Notre Dame had a battle against No.39 Minnesota and ended up winning their semi final 4/3 in a match that lasted more than 4 hours.
The final between UK and Notre Dame started at 5:00 pm Saturday. The Wildcats didn’t have a bad day in doubles with a lot of opportunities, but they for sure didn’t start this final the right way as the Fighting Irish won the doubles point with a win on court 1 and 2.
The duo Niels Ellefsen/ Ruyji Hirooka gave the cats an early win on court 3 with a 6-2 win.
Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai lost 6-4 on court 1.
It all came down to court 2 where Beck Pennington and Alejandro Gomez were up 5-3 and even had two match points to give UK the double points. Unable to close the match, Notre Dame came back 5-5 and UK lost the deciding tiebreaker.
When I was listening to Cedric Kauffmann during his speech between doubles and singles, I had the feeling this day could have been a special day for us. For his second year as our head coach, he was looking forward to send his players to their fifth consecutive National Indoor appearance. He told us to fight for every point. He reminded us that this was “ OUR HOUSE “ and that we should try to play with the crowd. No need to tell you how pumped we were and ready to go for the single actions — I even decided to wear new black shoes for the occasion as we decided to wear all black for singles, but ended up switching during the first set because they were hurting my feet.
Even though Notre Dame had won the doubles point, I think they knew it would be really tough to come out here and beat us.
On court 4, Wildcat Jerry Lopez lost 6-3, 6-2 and Notre Dame was up 2-0 overall in the match.
On court 1, No. 68 Tom Jomby beat No. 21 Greg Andrew in close sets, winning both in tiebreakers, 6-5, 6-5.
Playing on court one in front of all those people was so much fun. This was by far my best match of the year so far and I was glad to be able to come back in the second set when I was down 4-1. The Notre Dame players were trash talking every time I made a mistake, and they screamed and argued every single call I made. I was kind of happy to be able to silence them by winning my match in two sets.
The Wildcats tied the match up at 2-2 as Alejandro Gomez defeated Hagar in three sets, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2.
No.5 Grant Roberts destroyed Wyatt McCoy 6-0, 6-3. Here is a picture of Lexington native Grant Roberts in action:
UK went up 3-2 in the overall score after Grant’s win.
Beck Pennington had the opportunity to close out the match for the Cats. Only a sophomore and already playing No. 2, he had big responsibilities on his shoulders. He won the first set 6-3, but Bandy from Notre Dame fought all the way to win 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
The match came down to No. 6 singles where UK senior Ryuji Hirooka was playing against Notre Dame freshman Covalschi. The atmosphere was really intense in the stands as players started screaming and yelling any kind of nicknames they could find to pump up their teammate. In the first set Ryuji couldn’t handle his nerves. He was making unusual errors and was missing too many forehands as Notre Dame took the first set 6-3, but Hirooka found his way to bounce back, saving a match point and winning the second set in a tiebreaker, 6-5.
Ex-UK tennis head coach and legend Dennis Emery, Mitch Barnhart, UK Athletic Director and the whole crowd believed in the Cats and in Ruyji.
Personally I really thought we had it. Never I was thinking about getting upset by the Irish at any time to tell you how much I trusted my teammate Ryuji.
The match came down to a final set. The scene was really unbelievable. Imagine 2 players each of them sitting in their bench with 3 coaches, yeah you read it right, 3 COACHES just for them giving them advices. On the other side of the courts you had the players ready to jump out of their sit at every single occasion their player would win a point. I mean only in college tennis you will see that.
“ Yoshi “ as we call him in the team was up 3/1 and even had an opportunity to be up 4/1. There was a legit Davis cup atmosphere at the Boone Tennis center and the crowd was yelling every single time Covalski from Notre Dame would miss shot, even after missing a first serve to try to put pressure on him. But Notre Dame showed some heart and won 5 straight games to win 6/4 and send Notre Dame to the National Indoor in Houston Texas.
Personally, I have to give Notre Dame the credit. They gave a great team effort, but man that hurts.
After the match, Coach Kauffmann said it was a tough loss. Not a lot of teams have come down here to Lexington and upset us. We are not going to be a part of the best 16 teams in the country and that’s why we took a step back today.
Fun fact: next time UK will play will be at Notre Dame for a rematch, as the Wildcats will travel to South Bend on February 2 at 2:00 p.m.
Editor’s Note: Tom Jomby is one of the top rated tennis players in the SEC and is the #1 seed on a very strong Kentucky tennis team. This semester the Frenchman is also a student intern with KSR and will be working with the blog and radio show all Spring. He is doing a journal for us here on the site about his experiences as a college athlete and he will be detailing his season with the UK tennis team. His first post takes us behind the scenes of a UK tennis match, this time against rival Indiana, who Kentucky handled earlier this week in Lexington. We are excited to have Tom as a part of KSR and we hope you will welcome him to the site.
Coming off a successful trip to Durham, North Carolina last weekend, where the University of Kentucky men’s tennis team defeated No. 7 Duke 4-3, the Wildcats beat rival No. 56 Indiana University on Tuesday afternoon with a 6-1 win over the Hoosiers.
The IU team could have been a dangerous opponent for the Cats. This match is as tough as the match against the Blue Devils, said Coach Cedric Kauffmann, but his players were ready to go and started off the right way winning the double point.
On court one, Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai started with two early breaks for an early 5-0 lead and then easily won 6-1.
On court two and playing together for the first time, sophomore Beck Pennington and freshman Jerry Lopez, who just arrived from Mexico last week, had a little bit of a struggle.
As you can see in the picture above, it seems like they were having fun but they couldn’t find their rhythm and lost 6-0. In the tennis world, we call that a “bagel.”
Luckily for the Wildcats, Freshman Nils Ellefsen and Senior Ryuji Hirooka did the job on court 3 clinching the double point and winning their match 6-5 in a close tie breaker ( 7-4 ).
After the clinch, Ellefsen admitted in the locker room that he got tight and nervous during the match but hey, that was his first appearance in doubles for a big match wearing blue and white. Winning the doubles point for the team always helps because you only have to win three of the six singles points. (Ed. note: In college tennis, the best of three doubles matches is worth one total point toward the team’s overall score; each of the six singles matches are also worth one point; best of seven wins.)
In singles action, Alejandro Gomez dominated Dimitrije Tasic 6-2 6-2 in less than an hour.
Tom Jomby, ranked No. 68, played a solid match for the Wildcats and took care of No. 80 Sven Lalic, 6-3, 6-0 in straight sets.
The clinching point came from Beck Pennington, ranked No. 55 in the country, winning a three set battle against Sam Monette 5-6 (2), 6-5 (4), 6-2.
In the remaining matches, Grant Roberts, UK senior from Lexington, won 6-2, 6-2 against Elliott Yee, and Wildcat Ryuji Hirooka defeated Chris Essick 6-2, 6-3.
The crowd was not too bad for a Tuesday afternoon at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center with a good 80 people that showed up.
After the match, Coach Kauffman was proud of his players, and as much as he was expecting a very dangerous IU team, he was happy with the way his players responded to the challenge and thought they played well. He admitted that there is some work that needs to be done in doubles in order to start better and being able to knock off good teams.
This year, the ITA tennis association changed the scoring system to NO AD scoring to try to shorten the matches. They also changed the pre-match protocol, which doesn’t let the players warm up with each other. But Coach Kauffman has a plan for that and he will look at changing the warm-up routine to get his players ready.
Friday afternoon the University of Kentucky’s men’s tennis team will be competing in the annual ITA Kick-Off Weekend. It is the qualifying tournament to the National Indoor. They’re going up against No. 45 BYU while No. 29 Notre Dame will face No. 39 Minnesota.
The winners will play at 5:00 pm Saturday for a spot in the ITA National Indoor Championships in Houston.
The Cats have gone to the National Indoors for the past five years.
If I were you, I would go to watch and cheer the team on Friday at 1:00 pm. UK tennis is much more intense than you think.