ATHENS, Ga. — Texas Tech senior Ilgiz Valiev closed out a tough, three-set win at No. 2 singles Saturday and lifted the Red Raiders to a hard-fought 4-2 win over Virginia Tech in the first round of the NCAA Men’s Tennis Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
After dropping the doubles point, the Red Raiders came out strong in singles, winning the first set in five of the six matches. In the end, it was Valiev’s 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 win over the Hokies’ Alex Ribeiro that clinched the victory and earned Texas Tech a spot in the second round Sunday.
“In my four years here, I haven’t won a single round at the NCAAs until now, so it feels amazing,” Valiev said. “I can’t wait to play tomorrow against a good team. I’m ready to battle again. I’m sure the guys will be, too, and we’re excited. We’re hungry for more wins.”
Virginia Tech took a 1-0 lead in the match with wins at Nos. 1 and 2 doubles. The No. 25-ranked Hokie duo of Jordan Chrysostom and Ryan Fishback took down Texas Tech’s Parker Wynn and Franco Ribero at No. 1, but then the Red Raiders’ Valiev and Dimi Azoides edged Carlo Donato and Alvaro Ariza, 6-4, at No. 3, making the tight match at No. 2 the decider for the doubles point.
The set at No. 2 was knotted 4-4, with Texas Tech’s Reed Collier serving to the ad court, when the Hokie’s Ribeiro hit a return winner up the line — Texas Tech’s Isaac Arevalo cut inside in an attempt to poach, living the alley open — to give Ribeiro and partner Mitch Harper the break and a 5-4 lead. In the next game, with Harper trying to serve out the match, the duos again reached the deciding 40-all. Harper served to Collier’s backhand in the ad court and the return went wide, securing the 6-4 win and the doubles point for the Hokies.
The Hokies’ Harper quickly captured the first set in his match against Wynn at No. 1 singles, but the other five opening sets were more grinding affairs — and they were mostly going the Red Raiders’ way. Texas Tech won the opening set on courts 2-5, all 6-3. At No. 6, where Arevalo and Fishback were turning every point and game into a mini-marathon, they were on serve and tied 4-4 while every other match was into the second set.
While the No. 6 match was still in a first-set tiebreaker, Texas Tech picked up three wins within a minute or two of one another. First off the court was Azoides, who beat the Hokies’ Hugo Maia, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 5. Then the matches at Nos. 3 and 4 ended almost simultaneously: Collier beat Donato, 6-3, 6-4 at No. 4 and Ribero beat Matt Ross, 6-3, 6-1, at No. 3, giving the Red Raiders a 3-1 lead in the match, one point away from advancing.
“I’ve seen our guys this whole year, we’ve won a lot of doubles points and we’ve lost a lot of doubles points, that’s college tennis, but for sure the strength of these guys, the Red Raiders, right now is we just keep going.”, remarked head coach Danny Whitehead. “We know there’s a lot of match ahead and everybody just keeps going. Obviously, we did come out and play really well in singles, and I’m really happy with getting some first sets on the board. I’m even more happy with how we continue to compete and just keep going.”
Virgina Tech made it 3-2 with Harper’s 6-3, 7-6 (8-6) win at No. 1 singles, leaving two matches remaining. Ribeiro and Valiev were just starting their third set at No. 2, while at No. 6, the Red Raiders’ Arevalo had just edged Fishback, 9-7, in their first-set tiebreaker.
Valiev held serve at 4-4 in the third set, going up 5-4 and forcing Ribeiro hold to keep the match going. At 30-all, Valiev took the point, giving himself and the Red Raiders a pair of match points. He only needed one, winning when after a short rally Ribeiro missed into the net, setting off a big Red Raider celebration. The Red Raiders will be back in action tomorrow when they will face either the No. 11 seed and host, Georgia, or East Tennessee State, 12 p.m. (CT).
#25 Texas Tech 4, #29 Virginia Tech Hokies 2
1. #89 Mitch Harper (VT) def. Parker Wynn (TTU) 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
2. Ilgiz Valiev (TTU) def. #73 Alex Ribeiro (VT) 6-3, 3-6, 6-4
3. Franco Ribero (TTU) def. #98 Matthis Ross (VT) 6-3, 6-1
4. Reed Collier (TTU) def. Carlo Donato (VT) 6-3, 6-4
5. Dimitrios Azoidis (TTU) def. Hugo Maia (VT) 6-3, 6-2
6. Isaac Arevalo (TTU) vs. Ryan Fishback (VT) 7-6 (9-7), 1-6, 1-0, unfinished
1. #25 Jordan Chrysostom/Ryan Fishback (VT) def. #45 Parker Wynn/Franco Ribero (TTU) 6-2
2. Mitch Harper/Alex Ribeiro (VT) def. Isaac Arevalo/Reed Collier (TTU) 6-4
3. Ilgiz Valiev/Dimitrios Azoidis (TTU) def. Carlo Donato/Alvaro Ariza (VT) 6-3
Virginia Tech Hokies 12-10; National ranking #29 Texas Tech 13-7; National ranking #25
Order of finish: Doubles (1,3); Singles (5,4,3,1,2)