April 18, 2013
OXFORD, Miss. - No. 17 South Carolina sent three matches to third sets in a nail-biting 4-3 win over No. 20 LSU in the second round of the SEC Tournament Thursday morning at Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center on the Ole Miss campus. The Gamecocks (17-9) won the doubles point, but left the door open for the Tigers in singles. Wins came from the top half of the lineup, but not without drama as two of those went into third sets. Sophomore Thiago Pinheiro rebounded from his first-set loss to be the hero with a hard-fought, tension-filled third set over Olivier Borsos to send the Gamecocks into the tournament quarterfinals for the first time since 2008.
"It's been the story of our year," South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. "We are pretty decent tennis players, but the heart that this team has is unmatched. It's been that way the entire year. I was just extremely proud of Thiago [Pinheiro] there at the end. He's the heart and soul of this team when it comes down to it."
The Gamecocks were in control of the Nos. 1 and 3 doubles matches right out of the gates, cruising to 8-4 and 8-3 wins, respectively, to win the doubles point for the fifth-straight match. LSU lined up for singles ready to turn the tables, though. While Andrew Adams was up a break early, the other five matches were on serve or going in the Tigers' direction.
At the top of the order, neither No. 39 Tsvetan Mihov nor No. 50 Chris Simpson could hold serve through the first four games before Mihov broke the skid to take a 3-2 lead. Adams was the first to wrap up his first set, an efficient 6-1 effort over No. 82 Stefan Szacinski just as Mihov went up a break on Court 1. Pinheiro had gotten his break back on Court 3, joining Kyle Koch and Chip Cox on serve, but Harry Menzies dropped his first set to Tam Trinh 6-2 on Court 6.
Simpson broke Mihov's serve to stay in the set, but the Gamecock junior came right back to win the 6-4. The Tigers used late breaks to score first-set 6-4 wins on Courts 3 and 5, however. With Adams down a break and Menzies up one in their second sets, Koch was heading into his fifth tiebreak in the last six matches, all of which he had won. Mark Bowtell shook off a pair of set points, though, and managed to close out the tiebreak 7-6 (7) to give LSU four first sets.
At that point, Adams had gotten back on serve at 4-4 against Szacinski and Mihov had surged ahead of Simpson 5-3 and was serving for the match. Pinheiro was up a break on Borsos at 3-1, and Menzies was also up on Trinh early in the second set. Simpson rallied to stay in the match, and Szacinski continued the momentum with a break of Adams to win the second set 7-5 in the No. 2 match. Shortly after, Menzies wrapped up his second set 6-3 to send the No. 6 match into a third set as well.
After holding to go up 6-5, Mihov jumped on Simpson's service game early, setting up a pair of match points. The Tigers' star saved one but could not deny Mihov on the second, giving the junior a 6-4, 7-5 victory and the Gamecocks a 2-0 lead in the match. Moments later, Boris Arias cut the South Carolina lead in half, though, holding off a late charge from Cox for a 6-4, 6-4 win.
Losing the first-set tiebreak knocked Koch off his game, and Bowtell was out to an early lead in the second set on Court 4, but Menzies was covering for his doubles partner, opening a 4-0 lead on Trinh in the third set and Pinheiro held on to his early break to post a 6-4 second set over Borsos. Bowtell kept the pressure on Koch, posting a 7-6 (7), 6-2 win to pull the Tigers even a 2-2 with the remaining matches all in third sets.
Adams and Pinheiro were on serve in theirs, but Menzies saw Trinh continue the Tigers' surge to get back on serve at 4-3. Adams fought off a break point to hold at 3-3 and was steady through the next two games. With the pressure mounting, Szacinski stumbled first, dropping his service game to give Adams a 5-4 edge and the chance to serve for the match. The Gamecock sophomore used the emotion to jump out to a 40-Love lead. Szacinski staved off one of the match points but sent a shot long to give Adams the 6-1, 5-7, 6-4 victory and put the Gamecocks back on top 3-2. Moments later, Menzies suffered his third-straight service break, leaving Trinh to serve out the 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 victory.
With the team score even at 3-3, all eyes turned to Court 3. Pinheiro and Borsos were on serve at 3-4, but Borsos had a chance to edge in front with a break point. Pinheiro erased it, though, and held to even the set a 4-4 and score the first point on Borsos' serve. The Tigers' senior could not get in front of Pinheiro throughout the game, holding off one break point to get to deuce, but Pinheiro's pressure won out for a 5-4 lead. His subsequent service game played out much like Borsos' had with Pinheiro playing catch-up throughout the game. After fighting off a break point, he changed the script, winning the next two points as well to claim the set 6-4 and give the Gamecocks the 4-3 victory.
South Carolina advances to the quarterfinals, where No. 14 Florida awaits. The match is set to begin at 10 a.m. (ET) on Friday.
#17 South Carolina 4, #20 LSU 3Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 1*)
1. (14) Chip Cox/Tsvetan Mihov (SC) def. Roger Anderson/Olivier Borsos (LSU) 8-4
2. (72) Stefan Szacinski/Tam Trinh (LSU) led (50) Kyle Koch/Harry Menzies (SC) 6-3 suspended
3. Thiago Pinheiro/Andrew Adams (SC) def. Boris Arias/Chris Simpson (LSU) 8-3
Singles (Order of Finish: 1, 5, 4, 2, 6, 3*)
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