Most of the host teams in the first round of the NCAA tennis tournament barely have to break a sweat to advance.
That wasn’t the case for the Baylor men on Friday.
The combination of a stiff wind and a game Lamar squad proved to make for a difficult match at times for the seventh-ranked Bears, but they managed to overcome both in a 4-0 victory at the Hurd Tennis Center.
“It was a great thing. I think you see some of the four seeds around the country aren’t very strong, frankly, and these guys were pretty strong,” Baylor coach Matt Knoll said. “The Southland is a good conference. They had a tough match in the final and beat a pretty good team. We knew they were a good team.”
Baylor (22-7) moves to 25-0 all-time when hosting a first- or second-round NCAA tournament match and advances to meet No. 26 Cornell, a 4-0 winner over No. 43 Rice earlier Friday, in the second round. That match is slated for 4 p.m. Saturday at the Hurd Tennis Center.
The Bears had some changes in the singles and doubles lineups, primarily because of Bjoern Petersen’s return to action. Petersen had been out since retiring with an injury during Baylor’s 6-1 win over Lamar (17-8) on Feb. 3 and found himself part of the No. 2 pair in doubles and No. 4 spot in singles.
He dropped a first-set tiebreaker in his singles match against Sebastian Santibanez, a tilt that was abandoned after Baylor clinched the win, but was part of a winning effort with partner Max Tchoutakian, 6-2 over Michael Feucht and Benny Schweizer that helped the Bears take the doubles point.
“I saw exactly what I expected to see from (Petersen),” Knoll said. “He was really nervous. It was a windy day, tough day to play and the guy made a bajillion balls. The other guy served for the set and Bjoern broke him back. He didn’t play a very good tiebtreaker, but as the match was going on he was going to play better and better. It was great he got a match against a guy who could play tennis. The guy was tough on him.”
The Bears took the first set on all five of the other courts, but had a little trouble closing matches. Will Little raced to a 5-0 second-set lead before allowing Schweizer to win three straight games. Little stabilized in the final game and finished the 6-3, 6-3 win on Court 5 to make it a 2-0 Baylor lead.
“I hadn’t played in almost two weeks, and it was a little windy,” Little said. “But I’m hitting the ball great. It’s OK to start a little slow as long as you finish all right, so it was OK.”
Moments later, No. 63 Johannes Schretter, who had his own issues in the second set, put Jeandre Hoogenboezem away, 6-1, 6-3, and push the Bears’ lead to 3-0. Schretter led 4-0 in the second before allowing Hoogenboezem to get back on serve at 4-3. But he broke to 5-3 and served it out.
The Bears were in firm control at that point, but were still looking for that final point. It came when Constantin Franzen served out his match on Court 6 for a 6-3, 6-3 decision over Juuso Laitinen. Baylor’s top two players, No. 15 Juan Benitez and No. 50 Tchoutakian were in battles when their matches were abandoned.
Benitez had dropped the second set to Feucht at No. 1 and was just getting started in the third, and Tchoutakian was on serve with Nikita Lis at 4-3 in the second after taking the opening set.
Schretter and Frantzen, paired shortly before the match began, clinched the doubles point by holding off Latinen and Logan Powell and No. 3, 7-5.
“It was very hard today because we changed the lineup 10 minutes before (the match) began,” Frantzen said. “I’ve never played with Johannes, but I think we did a good job.”