NORMAN – The 16th-ranked Oklahoma men’s tennis team picked up an impressive ranked win on Saturday in its first match of the 2017 ITA Kick-Off Weekend inside the Gregg Wadley Indoor Tennis Pavilion at the Headington Family Tennis Center on Saturday.
The Sooners (3-1) won the doubles point and then took three of the first four singles matches finished to grab a 4-0 sweep of No. 19 Michigan in front of an electric crowd of nearly 350.
“We talked about getting out early and imposing our game on these guys and I think we did a really good job of that."
- Head Coach Nick Crowell
“Awesome win today,” head coach Nick Crowell said. “I’m really proud of our guys. Michigan really fought back on every court. Spencer (Papa) just came up clutch. He was down match points but played very aggressive in those points and ended up winning in a third-set tiebreaker. Our fans were amazing today and we look forward to following it up tomorrow against Illinois.”
OU got off to a quick start in doubles. On court one, OU’s top duo of senior Andrew Harris and junior Spencer Papa raced out to a 4-0 lead with a pair of breaks before eventually knocking off Michigan’s Jathan Malik and Kevin Wong, ranked No. 6 nationally, 6-1.
At number three doubles, newcomers Adrian Oetzbach and Adrian Chamdani won three total breaks and gave up just one in a 6-2 win over Myles Schalet and Tyler Gardiner that clinched the doubles point for the Sooners.
As Oetzbach and Chamdani were clinching, seniors Florin Bragusi and Alex Ghilea led by a break at 5-3 and had Michigan at 40-40 in its service game at the number two spot. That match went unfinished.
Singles started in the much the same way for OU as the Sooners opened by winning five of the six first sets. Harris put the next Oklahoma point on the board with a 6-4, 6-1 over No. 50 Wong at number one. Harris trailed 4-2 at one point in the first set but then won 10 of the next 11 games, including a stretch of eight straight, to take the match.
“We talked about getting out early and imposing our game on these guys and I think we did a really good job of that,” Crowell said. “The energy was high and we continued that in the second set but I thought Michigan played better. We had match points on three different courts and could have clinched but didn’t. They hung around, but our guys never faltered in their belief and they pulled it out.”
"There were a million things going through my mind. I just wanted to focus on each point one at a time. That’s what I did. I played aggressive and pulled out the win.”
- Junior Spencer Papa
Ghilea put the Sooners just one point from the clinch with a comeback win at number three singles. The senior leader won his first set over Alex Knight 6-2 but then got shut out in the second. He rallied in the third to win 6-3 and take the match.
With four courts remaining and needing just one win to advance to Sunday’s final, the Sooners had double match point at both number four and number six singles, but Michigan held strong and forced tiebreaks it would eventually win.
The winning point came from Papa at number two singles. The junior from Edmond, Okla., won the first set of his match with Malik 6-3, but both the second and third sets would go to tiebreakers. Papa dropped the second set breaker but in the third he overpowered Malik to win 7-5 and clinch his own match and a 4-1 win for Oklahoma.
“I had good momentum so I was just playing aggressively,” Papa said. “In the second set I had no breaks of serve and it went to a breaker. The third went to a breaker too so it was a close match. There were a million things going through my mind. I just wanted to focus on each point one at a time. That’s what I did. I played aggressive and pulled out the win.”
The win pushes the Sooners to Sunday’s final where they will take on No. 17 Illinois at 2 p.m. CT inside the Gregg Wadley Indoor Pavilion. As always, admission is free. The Illini topped No. 25 Arkansas 4-2 Saturday morning. The winner of Sunday’s match will earn a berth in the 2017 ITA National Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Va., on Feb. 17-20. In 2015 the Sooners claimed their first ever National Indoor championship.
For more information on Oklahoma men’s tennis, follow the team on twitter @OU_MTennis.