On a beautiful and cool Sunday afternoon, the Miami men’s tennis team took to the court for an emotion-filled match.
For seniors Benjamin Hannestad and Bojan Jankulovski, this would be their last time playing in Coral Gables. While not the final match of the season, there was a sense of finality as match play commenced against a powerful Virginia Cavaliers team.
The Hurricanes (14-8, 3-6 Atlantic Coast Conference) were the clear underdogs as UVA (17-5, 10-0 ACC) boasted a top ten ranking and an undefeated record in ACC play.
Doubles play began with Miami looking competitive on all three courts. Much like in previous matches, the duo of Dan Martin and Bojan Jankulovksi were unstoppable on Court 3. They have demolished opponents consistently throughout the season, and this match was no exception. They steamrolled to a 6-1 victory, winning games at will.
Because of their singles acumen, both players opted to stand at the baseline. This is a rare sight in doubles, but it proved effective once again.
On Court 2, freshman Martin Katz and junior Oren Vasser fought hard the entire match but ultimately succumbed, 4-6, losing multiple crucial deciding points.
Court 1 was once again a roller coaster. Juniors Juan Martin Jalif and Franco Aubone were down 5-3 but came back to tie it at 5-5. While on serve at 5-6, the Canes missed three crucial volleys at the net, which ultimately led to the defeat.
As singles play began, it became clear that the Canes were outmatched. On Courts 3, 5 and 6, the matches were foregone conclusions, meaning UVA would come out victorious on the day. On Court 6, freshman Casper Christensen would suffer his first collegiate loss by the scoreline of 6-1, 6-0.
Katz had an equally frustrating time, losing 2-6, 2-6, to his hard-hitting opponent. The match was then sealed on Court 3 only seconds later as Jalif lost, 2-6, 2-1. Virginia head coach Andres Pedroso could have pulled the plug right then, but he decided to let the match play out, likely as a gesture to Miami’s seniors still playing.
Vasser showed a lot of grit, staying steady with No. 70 Ryan Goetz. He would lose by a slim margin, 4-6, 3-6, to give Virginia a commanding 5-0 lead.
On Court 2, Jankulovski left it all on the court against No. 19 Chris Rodesch. Jankulovski led throughout most of the first set but lost three quick games in succession, 4-6. In the next set, he redoubled his efforts, forcing a tiebreak, but Rodesch used his big-time forehand to overpower Jankulovski, 4-7, in the tiebreak.
The only bright spot for the Canes was at the No. 1 position. Martin kept up his tremendous play in a come-from-behind win against No. 35 Iñaki Montes De La Torre. In the first set, it looked like a blowout. The usually precise and deadly Canadian was making unforced errors. Combined with Montes De La Torre’s lightning-fast speed and absurdly good defensive skills, Martin had no answers. Martin would lose the first set, 1-6.
Between sets, something clicked mentally. As the opening points of the second set began, there seemed to be a new man on the other side of the court. Martin delivered a pro-like performance that redefined his capabilities as a player. He began hitting unbelievable shots with the consistency of a machine, breaking past the defensive wall of his opponent. Martin got an early break, maintaining his lead at 5-4, but with the chance to serve out the set, he faltered slightly.
Montes De La Torre got the break to level it at 5-5, but Martin then hit an even higher gear. He won the next two games with incredible play and forced a third-set tie-break. In this tie-break, Martin exhibited the pinnacle of his abilities, creating a massive 7-1 lead. He then closed out the match, 10-4, to salvage one win for the Canes.
Martin has now notched wins against both Wake Forest and Virginia, the top two teams in the ACC, and has surpassed 20 wins on the season.
Miami hits the road for the rest of the season as they play Georgia Tech next Thursday in Atlanta at 5 p.m.