Hurricanes drop both matches at ITA Kickoff Weekend

Graduate student Dan Martin returns the ball during his singles match against Troy University on Saturday, Jan. 14 at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center. Photo credit: Alexandra Carnochan

Miami men’s tennis knew its work would be cut out for them when it traveled to Athens, Georgia, to participate in the ITA Kickoff Weekend Challenge. The University of Georgia, a perennial tennis powerhouse with the top ranked player in the nation, played host to the ‘Canes, the Louisville Cardinals and the LSU Tigers.

On Sunday, the ‘Canes lost to a red-hot Louisville team that had won its previous four matches. The following day, UM lost a 4-3 nailbiter to LSU in the consolation match.

Miami started the weekend off with an intimidating doubles matchup. The Cardinals (5-1) boasted the No. 9 ranked pair in the country while none of the Miami duos were ranked. It was a decisive victory for Louisville as it brushed past the graduate student pair of Leonard Bierbaum and Dan Martin, 6-2, on Court 3. Soon after, the No. 9 pair on Court 1 won 6-3 to seal the doubles point.

Already facing a deficit, the odds were stacked against the ‘Canes as Louisville’s top four were all ranked in the top 65. For comparison, Dan Martin, the only ranked player for the ‘Canes, currently sits at No. 72 in the country.

On Court 4, freshman Martin Del Puerto quickly fell 6-1, 6-2 to double the Cardinal’s lead to 2-0.

However, Martin would punch back for the ‘Canes, as he made quick work of No. 25 Natan Rodrigues, 6-3, 6-4, to bring the ‘Canes back within one. On Court 3, freshman Antonio Prat lost his first match of the season, as he fell in three sets to No. 42 Etienne Donnet, 2-6, 6-2, 6-0.

Needing only one more win to seal the match, attention turned to Court 5 where fifth-year senior Franco Aubone lost narrowly 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in two hotly contested sets. With the match clinched, the remaining matches were called off. Sophomore Martin Katz and Nacho Sanchez were both looking to extend their matches to a third set.

The ‘Canes did not get much time to catch their breath, as they were thrust back into action the following day against the LSU tigers. The Tigers had lost 4-1 to the Georgia Bulldogs the previous afternoon, so both teams were looking to end the weekend on a positive note.

Once again, doubles would not go the ‘Canes way, as LSU won on Courts 2 and 3 to secure a 1-0 advantage. Katz and Prat were defeated 6-3 on Court 2 and Bierbaum and Martin fell next, 6-4, on Court 3. Impressively, Aubone and Puerto were holding their own against the No. 20 pair, 5-5, when the match was abandoned.

In singles play, the two teams could not have been closer. Prat would rebound from his loss a day prior, as he steamrolled to a 6-2, 6-2 victory on Court 3. Martin then fell in straight sets to No. 18 Ronald Hohmann, 6-4, 6-2, to end his three-match win streak.

LSU put themselves in the driver seat as they claimed another win on Court 5. Sanchez fell in two close sets, 6-3, 7-5.

Down 3-1 for the second straight match, the ‘Canes miraculously seemed to find a burst of energy. On Court 6, Bierbaum won a back-and-forth match, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3, to keep the ‘Canes alive. On Court 2, Katz repeated the same feat, as he won his own tightly contested match, 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 6-2, to put all the pressure on Court 4.

With everything coming down to the final match of the day, things took a dark turn for the ‘Canes. Aubone had lost the first set, 6-4, but then heroically rebounded in the second set, 7-5, to force a third. Down 5-2 in the final set, Aubone did the impossible, winning nine straight points to tie the match 5-5. Unfortunately, the exhaustion finally set in, and he fell 7-5, giving the Tigers a 4-3 victory.

The Hurricanes will return to action on Feb. 10 at the Neil Schiff Tennis Center when they face off against the North Florida Ospreys at 3 p.m.