Tennis fans welcomed back with thriller, as No. 7 Texas bests No. 15 Arizona

Ross Fisher

From tiebreakers to comebacks to thrown rackets and heated arguments, the No. 7-ranked Texas men’s tennis team’s 4-3 win against No. 15 Arizona on Friday had it all.

Despite a limited number of fans being back in attendance at the Texas Tennis Center, chants of “U of A” were initially more pronounced than any Longhorn rally cry. Texas combatted that fiery Arizona spirit with some passion of their own, doing their best to silence the Wildcat ensemble with their on-court play. 

Texas found themselves with their backs against the wall in doubles play, after a loss at No. 2 nullified freshman Micah Braswell and sophomore Jacob Bullard’s win at No. 3. Back in action from a two-week hiatus with shin splints, sophomore Siem Woldeab secured the doubles point for Texas, alongside sophomore Eliot Spizzirri at No. 1. 

With Spizzirri and Woldeab up 6-5, Woldeab rushed the net and buried a volley to bring up match point. He then powered home a forehand winner down the alley to put Texas up 1-0 in the dual match, throwing his racket and screaming in Spizzirri’s face with delight. 

With No. 57 Woldeab still slightly nursing his injury, he dropped out of the singles lineup at his usual spot of No. 2. Texas junior Nevin Arimilli filled in at No. 6, which bumped the other five Longhorn singles competitors up one spot than normal.

It was the Austin product, Arimilli, who clinched the dual match for the Longhorns, winning 6-3, 3-6 and 7-5. Arimilli found himself down 5-2 in the deciding set, but willed himself out of that hole with some bold serving and a flurry of drop shot winners, including one that clinched the match.

Arimilli’s contribution on Friday was a welcome sight for a Texas team who needed their reserves to step up, head coach Bruce Berque said.

“I am really happy for him and he deserves a ton of credit, because he has not been a consistent lineup player,” Berque said. “He has just stayed the course, worked hard everyday, had a great attitude, been a good teammate and when he got his chances recently he has been able to step in and win three big matches.” 

Texas looked like they were in trouble midway through singles play, going down 2-1 overall after losses at No. 3 and No. 4. At that point, Berque was unsure where the three victories the team needed were going to come from. 

“I think it started to feel the worst prior to the last 10 minutes,” Berque said. “I try not to think about that too much, I try to take care of my responsibility which is my two courts, but today I was definitely guilty of being scoreboard-aware.”

After dropping a tiebreaker in the first set, No. 78 Braswell strung together a couple of convincing set victories to trounce Arizona senior No. 58 Filip Malbasic. Braswell and Malbasic were in fierce disagreement over line call discrepancies, and Braswell used that competitive fire to will himself past the Swede.

The same heated scenario ensued between No. 120 Spizzirri and Arizona junior Jonas Ziverts at No. 1, after the No. 50-ranked Ziverts ruled an extremely close call out, giving himself the first set tiebreak victory. Similarly to Braswell, Spizzirri used that anger to fuel himself to a 6-0 second set victory before dropping a tiebreaker in the third set to narrowly lose out to Ziverts. 

At the same time Spizzirri and Arimilli were battling it out in their respective matches, sophomore Evin McDonald edged a tiebreaker to clinch the third set of his match at No. 5, securing Texas’s five-game win streak. 

Texas will host No. 29 South Florida on March 27 for the second of a six-match home stand, as they look to extend their winning streak.