STILLWATER, Okla. - For the 19th time in the 20-year history of the Big 12 Championship, the Baylor men’s tennis team will play in the event’s semifinal round.
The 43rd-ranked and fifth-seeded Bears produced a 4-2 upset over No. 15 and fourth-seeded Oklahoma State to advance out of the quarterfinals Friday at the Greenwood Tennis Center.
The match was originally scheduled to be played outdoors at noon, but it was forced to be moved indoors. Singles action was contested first due to inclement weather.
The Bears (15-12) and Cowboys (18-7) had played 12 days ago on April 17 with OSU taking a 4-2 win in the exact same location and with the exact same lineups.
In Friday’s quarterfinal match, first sets between the two schools were split evenly 3-3, but Oklahoma State put the first point on the board as Tyler Stayer lost 6-2, 6-0 to Jurence Mendoza at the No. 6 spot.
All five of the remaining singles matches were pushed to third sets, and the Bears would claim the next three contests.
First, the 99th-ranked Max Tchoutakian polished off Arjun Kadhe 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 at the No. 2 spot. That result was followed by Tommy Podvinski’s first win over a conference opponent with his 1-6, 6-3, 6-3 dispatching of Lukas Finzelberg on court five.
The 16th-ranked Julian Lenz gave the Bears a 3-1 advantage as he won his seventh-straight singles decision by downing No. 52 Julian Cash, 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 at the top of the lineup.
With Felipe Rios’ 2-6, 6-3, 7-6(7) loss to Lucas Gerch at the No. 3 position, the BU lead was cut to the 3-2 and all the attention turned to court four where Jimmy Bendeck was battling Tristan Meraut.
If Bendeck won that match, the Bears would claim the contest 4-2. If the BU freshman dropped the match, then the two teams would play the doubles point to decide the match.
In the first match between the two players earlier in April, Bendeck had won the first set and then lost the second in a tiebreaker, before falling 6-0 in a third set.
On Friday, Bendeck had won a marathon first-set tiebreaker, 7-6(8), and then Meraut returned the favor by capturing the second set in a tiebreaker 7-6(8). When the attention turned to that court, the duo was just starting the third set. Each player held through the first eight games for a 4-4 score and then Bendeck went on to break and hold to capture the win. The Hollywood, Fla. native took seven of the last eight points to send the Bears to the semifinals.
With the win, Baylor snapped a three-match losing streak overall and won for the first time since April 9.
• Baylor is 13-1 in Big 12 Championship quarterfinal matches, last falling in the first year of the tournament (1997). The Bears have received a quarterfinal round bye in the other six years of tournament action.
• The Bears have now produced a 36-11 record overall in Big 12 Championship play.
• Baylor is 8-0 against OSU at the Big 12 Championship.
• Baylor leads the all-time series against Oklahoma State, 26-9.
• The Bears have won 13 of the last 14 matchups against the Cowboys.
TOP QUOTE #1
"Well, boy it was close. We had some match points at No. 3. Their guy is just really tough there and did a great job of scratching out the three-set win in the tiebreaker. We had some match points at No. 4 in the second set that we didn't get, so what a credit to Oklahoma State to fight off all those match points that we had. Sometimes you get to the third set after you've had all those opportunities and you go a little flat. Jimmy [Bendeck] was almost in the same situation when we were here two weeks ago when he lost the third set, 6-0. He was playing the same guy and played in a very similar situation. We talked a lot about it, and I was really proud of him. He was able to have the relaxed intensity he needed to play some of his best tennis." -- head coach Matt Knoll on the quarterfinal win
TOP QUOTE #2
"It says we have a lot of good players that have come through here, and it's a credit to those guys. We've had a lot of good guys that have believe in the program and have committed themselves to getting better. I'm lucky to have been around when it's happened." -- Knoll on reaching the program's 19th semifinal appearance in 20 seasons
TOP QUOTE #3
"We've played them twice this year, and lost to them twice. They've had a great season and are conference champions, so we've got a big match in front of us. A big task. It's going to be tough, but we're in an underdog role. We've got nothing to lose, and we're going to come out and take our swings and have some fun." -- Knoll on facing top-seed Texas Tech tomorrow
Baylor now faces eighth-ranked top-seeded Texas Tech in the Big 12 semifinals Saturday at noon CT in Stillwater, Okla. The Bears will look to avenge two prior 4-3 losses to the co-Big 12 champion Red Raiders this season. Most recently, the Bears dropped a tightly-contested doubles point and were unable to get a match-clinching singles win at the No. 2 spot to drop its home conference opener on April 2.
On Feb. 13, BU fell short in singles after clinching the doubles point against the Red Raiders at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Va.
A Baylor victory in the Big 12 semifinals will advance the Bears to the finals for the 15th time in the event's 20th year and fifth in a row. Of its 14 previous appearances in the finals, Baylor has won the crown eight times.