In the first meeting this year between the No. 13 Ole Miss men’s tennis team and No. 15 Florida, it came down to the wire, but Sunday it was all Rebels from the beginning, as they won the doubles point and the top three singles positions to shut out the Gators 4-0 in front of a large crowd at the Gillom Sports Center.
Rain forced the match indoors and it was also moved up an hour to accommodate the Gators’ travel plans. Despite the earlier start, plenty of Rebel fans showed up, and they were treated to a solid match all the way around by the team.
“Florida has a very good team, and I have a lot of respect for them and their coaches,” head coach Toby Hansson said. “They always come out firing and we knew it would be a battle. We were able to win a close doubles point and take the momentum into singles. I have to give credit to the crowd again. We appreciate everybody getting out of bed on a Sunday morning and coming here to watch us. They were fantastic.”
What is quickly becoming a solid pairing, senior Nik Scholtz and freshman Zvonimir Babic needed only 20 minutes to dominate Florida’s Elliott Orkin and Max Lipman 6-1 at No. 1 doubles. The other two matches were tight. William Kallberg and Grey Hamilton, playing together for only the second time, broke UF’s Josh Wardell and Oliver Landert at 5-5, and then Kallberg served it out 7-5 to clinch the point.
Playing on only three courts indoors, the first three singles matches went on, and freshman Gustav Hansson wasted little time taking out Lipman 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3 to make it 2-0 Rebels.
“Gustav looked very strong out there,” Toby Hansson said. “He was executing his shots and playing to the crowd. He was ready to go from the start, and never gave his opponent a chance. It was a very impressive performance.”
A big reason for the Rebels success this year has been the play of junior Stefan Lindmark, who improved to 9-3 at No. 2 singles with a 6-4, 6-3 win against Orkin.
“Stefan was playing a quality opponent,” Toby Hansson said. “They had a lot of long rallies and exciting points. Stefan is playing really well right now and tough for anyone to beat. It was another impressive performance as well.”
With the Rebels leading 3-0, Scholtz, ranked No. 23 in the nation, made sure no more matches would be needed, as he finished off 64th-ranked Diego Hidalgo in three sets. After dropping the first set 6-3, Scholtz broke Hidalgo early in the second set and never looked back winning the final two sets 6-3, 6-0 to clinch the victory.
“I lost my serve on a deuce point in the first set, but I told myself I was still in control,” Scholtz said. “As soon as I got that first break in the second set, I moved into a new gear and started feeling more comfortable out there. The crowd was amazing. It’s so much fun to play in front of these fans, and we really appreciate them coming out.”
“Nik couldn’t really get his game going in the beginning and got off to a tough start,” Toby Hansson said. “It took him a little while, but then he started moving better and hitting the ball the way he normally does. He finished off the match attacking more and playing his game.”
When the match was clinched, Florida was up a break early in the first sets at four and five singles. Scholtz said he was focused on his match, but he could sense what was happening on the other courts.
“I try not to look at the scoreboard too much, but I was aware that Gustav was dominating,” he said. “That was pretty easy to tell. I knew Stefan was in a tough match, and I was supporting him. He did the same for me. We’ve started this thing where we feed off each other and try to help each other when things are tight. That helped a lot. I might have been the one who clinched, but a lot of credit goes to the entire team. It’s a team win today, and they deserve as much credit as me.”
The Rebels now hit the road for three tough matches, starting with a rescheduled match at arch-rival Mississippi State Wednesday at 3 p.m.
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