Men's tennis drops tight 4-3 match to Auburn

From the University of South Carolina

COLUMBIA, S.C. – A late rally fell just short as No. 50 South Carolina dropped a 4-3 decision to No. 68 Auburn Sunday afternoon in SEC men's tennis action at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center.

After narrowly dropping the doubles point, the Gamecocks won three of the last four singles, but it was not enough to hold off the Tigers. The match was hotly contested from the outset as the doubles point came down to the wire. The nation's No. 7 duo of Tim Puetz and Alex Stamchev used an early break to get the upper hand on the Gamecock duo of Diego Cubas and Pedro Campos and held off a pair of break points on Puetz's serve midway through the match to post to an 8-3 win in the No. 1 position.

In the No. 3 position, Alexander Kostanov and Ivan Cressoni traded breaks with Tim Hewitt and Alex Jorne before the South Carolina tandem capture two service breaks in the last three games to post an 8-5 victory. The point would  come  down  to  the  No.  2  match  where Ivan Machado and Johannes Pulsfort trailed by a pair of  service breaks  at  2-7.

The Gamecock team got one back and held serve to pull within 4-7, but could not complete the rally, falling to Andreas Mies and Michel Monteiro 8-4 to give the Tigers the early 1-0 lead in the match. In singles action, Machado continued to struggle with his serve in the No. 4 match, falling to Auburn's Lucas Lopasso 6-1, 6-2. Kostanov suffered a 6-3, 6-3 loss to No. 89 Stachev in the No. 3 match to bring the Tigers within a point of the match victory at 3-0, but the Gamecocks would not go quietly.

After winning the first set 6-4 with a late service break, Campos, playing the No. 2 spot, rallied from 1-4 down to win the second set 6-4 and put the Gamecocks on the board. On Court 5, Cressoni outlasted Mies in a first-set tiebreaker 7-3 and got an early service break to hold an edge. He picked up a second break to go up 5-1, but Mies answered with a break of his own to postpone the Gamecocks' second point. Cressoni steadied the ship, however, and closed out the 6-3 second set with a service winner, pulling the Gamecocks within a point at 3-2.

The match would come down to the third sets at the top and bottom of the singles lineup. In the No. 1 match, No. 65 Cubas overpowered No. 26 Puetz in the first set 6-1, breaking the Tigers' top player's serve two of three times in the set. The two nationally-ranked players held serve through the first nine games of the second set, but Puetz narrowly extended the match with a break in the final game of the set (6-4). He turned the tables on Cubas in the third set, breaking his serve twice in three opportunities to secure the third set 6-1 and the match for Auburn. In the final match of the day, Pulsfort rallied back from a 6-3 first-set loss to Michael Wardell to take the second set by the same score as both players struggled to win their service games.

That difficulty continued into the third set with each of the first six games won by the receiver. Wardell was the first to hold to take a 4-3 lead in the match. Pulsfort fought off a break point in his next game to level the set a 4-4 then forced Wardell to fight off a pair of them before the Gamecock junior closed out the game to take a 5-4 advantage and, one game later, the victory. South Carolina (6-6, 0-4 SEC) steps out of conference play to host No. 36 Nebraska on Fri., March 19, at 2 p.m. at Maxcy Gregg Tennis Center.