April 26, 2009
Norman, Okla.-The Big 12 Championship final came down to the last match on the court for the second straight year and for the second time the Baylor Bears squeaked past the Texas Longhorns, 4-3.
"It was a great match," Baylor head coach Matt Knoll said. "We are excited to win this event. Certainly it kicks off the postseason in a very positive way."
It was the third straight tournament title for Baylor and the seventh time in the last eight years the Baylor men's tennis team has captured the trophy. The seventh-ranked Bears used the doubles point and three singles victories to defeat the 15th-ranked and third-seeded Texas Longhorns, at the Headington Tennis Center Sunday afternoon to earn the title.
"The Big 12 Tournament is a big deal," Knoll said. "We have a trophy case back home and we don't put trophies from all tournaments in there, we put these kind of trophies in there."
Battling extremely windy conditions with gusts above 30 mph that played havoc with the ball all day, the Bears got up early by taking the doubles point with wins in two of the three matches.
"We knew today would be a rough day with the conditions," Knoll said. "I thought our guys managed it as well as possible."
In doubles, Baylor's No. 2 duo of Denes Lukacs and Maros Horny bounced back from a broken serve in the first game to win six straight games, before closing out the match 8-3 over No. 43 Dimitar Kutrovsky and Josh Zavala. Texas would knot the contest at one as the Bears' No. 3 pair of Dominik Mueller and Julian Bley fell short in its comeback bid. The partners found themselves down 7-2, before winning four straight points to cut the Longhorn lead to 7-6. However, Olivier Sajous and Miguel Reyes Varela grabbed the next point to win, 8-6. This left the No. 1 doubles match to decide the point. After Baylor's 21st-ranked and No. 1 pair of David Galic and Jordan Rux went up 7-4, the Longhorns responded to run the score to 7-6. At that point Championship MOP Rux served the Bears to an 8-6 victory over No. 25 Ed Corrie and Kellen Damico and the doubles point.
Baylor's lead would be short lived though as No. 104 Damico took down Mueller 6-2, 6-1. The Bears would answer back as Bley blew past Sajous 6-4, 6-3. Baylor would then push Texas to the brink of defeat as No. 117 Attila Bucko pulled away from Zavala 7-6(4), 6-1. However, the Longhorns would bounce back to win at No. 1 with No. 23 Kutrovsky handing fourth-ranked Lukacs his second straight loss 6-4, 7-6(1). The match was now sitting at a 3-2 advantage for Baylor, as both matches at courts two and six were heading towards third sets. After winning his first set 6-4, Horny would falter in the next two 6-3, 6-3 as Jonah Kane-West squared the match at three points apiece. The loss at No. 6 position left 43rd- ranked Rux in a familiar position: the last match on in a Big 12 Tournament final against Texas. Rux would rebound from an opening set loss to No. 64 Corrie to claim the title for Baylor 5-7, 6-4, 6-4. In the final set Rux was down 4-2 before storming back to take the next four games.
"I am really proud of Jordan (Rux) for coming through with all of the pressure on him," Knoll said. "It's a special place to be as a tennis player: to be on the last match in a big situation. I am proud that he was able to come through and hold it together."
Rux delivered the same result at last year's Big 12 Championships in College Station when he beat Texas' Milan Mihailovic in three sets to claim the title for Baylor at the No. 6 position.
"To be in that position is what you train for, it is what I think every player wants to be in, so to come out on top both times is really special," Rux said. "It was extremely tough mentally. Obviously the wind out here is a huge factor. Ed (Corrie) is a good player. I was a little frustrated at the start, but I think I kept my composure really well at the end."
The Bears raised their record to 23-5 and extended their win streak to 12-matches, while the Longhorns fell to 19-6. Baylor has now won 18 of its last 20 matches and improved to 28-6 all-time in Big 12 championship play.
Every year since a 2001 semifinal loss to Texas, the Bears have made the finals match of the Championships, winning the final match seven of those eight years. It was the fourth straight year that the Longhorns and the Bears have met in the final of the championships, with the Bears winning three of those four matchups.
"It is always good to beat Texas," Rux said. "They are our biggest rival in the Big 12 right now, so anytime we beat them is really special and to beat them like that in the Big 12 final, it is a good moment for Baylor tennis."
The Bears improved to 15-40 all-time versus Texas and during Matt Knoll's tenure Baylor is 15-8 against the Longhorns.