Alabama survives ETSU in first round of NCAAs
Friday, May 11, 2007

DURHAM, N.C. (May 11, 2007) - Facing No. 17-ranked Alabama, the No. 51 ETSU men's tennis team put together its best showing ever in the first round of the NCAA Championships, battling through back and forth matches and several tie breakers to eventually fall 4-2 to the Crimson Tide Friday afternoon at the Ambler Tennis Stadium on the campus of Duke University.


The Buccaneers, who end their season as Atlantic Sun Conference champions with a record of 23-5, faced a 3-1 deficit in the match but rallied to make it 3-2 when junior Predrag Burmazovic (Belgrade, Serbia and Montenegro) won at No. 1 singles over 'Bama's Billy Mertz, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. With two matches still in progress at the time, Alabama's Saketh Myneni held off a flourish by ETSU sophomore Alex Ahlgren (Tyreso, Sweden) to close out the win for the Crimson Tide, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6.


"It was heartbreaking, but it went right down to the wire and our team made ETSU proud today," said head coach Yaser Zaatini, who guides an ETSU program making its fifth NCAA appearance. "I've seen most of our postseason trips in the NCAAs, and there's no doubt in my mind this was our best performance. You never want to lose and our goal was to conquer a first round win and keep rewriting history for our program. We weren't able to do that, but we showed what we are capable of today."


The day began with ETSU and Alabama splitting a pair of doubles matches, as sophomore Enrique Olivares (Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela) and junior Sebastian Serrano (Cartagena, Colombia) gave the Bucs a win over Alabama's Joseph Jung and Myneni, 8-4, while the Tide's Mertz and Javier Bes dropped ETSU freshman Daniel Isaza (Medellin, Colombia) and junior Lisandro Picardo (Mar Del Plata, Argentina), 8-6. The deciding match of the doubles point came as the Tide's Mathieu Thibaudeau and Dan Buikema held off Ahlgren and senior Travis Sandlant (Werribee, Australia) in a true battle of wills, 9-7.


            Heading to the singles matches, the Bucs' deficit grew to 2-0 when Bes dropped Picardo in straight sets at the No. 5 position. Despite another straight sets loss by Insaurradle to Sammy Struyf, the Bucs won dramatically at both the No. 1 and No. 2 singles positions, as Olivares dominated Jung, 6-2, 6-3, and Burmazovic got his win over Mertz. For ETSU, that left No. 6 Ahlgren and No. 4 Serrano on the court. Serrano was back and fourth with Thibaudeau in a match that stood, 5-7, 7-6, 2-1, in favor of Thibaudeau,  when word came of Ahlgren's match deciding loss to Myneni.


            "Every player on our team can be proud of how we played today," Zaatini said. "I don't think Alabama thought they would be tested this way. One or two shots go differently, and we would have won."


No. 17 Alabama 4, No. 51 ETSU 2


No. 1 - Predrag Burmazovic (ETSU) def. Billy Mertz, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5

No. 2 - Enrique Olivares (ETSU) def. Joseph Jung, 6-2, 6-3

No. 3 - Sammy Struyf (AL) def. Felix Insaurralde, 6-4, 6-3

No. 4 - Mathieu Thibaudeau (AL) vs. Sebastian Serrano, 5-7, 7-6, 2-1 (DNF)

No. 5 - Javier Bes (AL) def. Lisandro Picardo, 6-4, 6-0

No. 6 - Saketh Myneni (AL) def. Alex Ahlgren, 6-3, 3-6, 7-6



No. 1 - Buikema/Thibaudeau (AL) def. Ahlgren/Sandlant, 9-7

No. 2 - Olivares/Serrano (ETSU) def. Jung/Myneni, 8-4

No. 3 - Mertz/Bes (AL) def. Isaza/Picardo, 8-6