COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Clemson Men’s Tennis team went toe-to-toe against the nation’s second-ranked team but ultimately fell in a narrow 4-2 decision in the ITA Kickoff Weekend opener against South Carolina (2-0) in the Palmetto Series Presented by SC Education Lottery. The Tigers (2-1) claimed the doubles point decisively and battled closely in singles, but ultimately could not hold on to pull the upset in the 115th all-time meeting between the programs.
“I was glad to see our guys come out the right way in doubles today and it paid off,” said Head Coach Brandon Wagner, coaching in his first rivalry match. “We knew it was going to be a battle no matter what – and it was. Credit to South Carolina for playing well in some important moments at the end. It was great experience for some of our freshmen to fight til the end and learn from this moment. We didn’t play our best at some spots, but that happens and we will address that – I know our guys will be ready for the opportunity tomorrow to go after it again.”
South Carolina was coming off a road win over then-No. 1 Virginia in their last match, and new Head Coach Brandon Wagner and the Tigers gave them all they could handle in Columbia on Saturday. The match came down to two three-set singles matches between a pair of freshmen, with the Gamecocks’ Jelani Sarr prevailing against Marko Mesarovic, 7-5, 4-6, 6-2, when a deep shot from the Tiger freshman was called out. Stewart Aronson also battled from down a set, and looked poised to claim his singles match when the Gamecocks clinched. He led 5-2, 30-0 in the third set.
The Tigers will take on Louisville at 10 a.m. in the consolation match after the Cardinals fell to LSU, 4-2. The match is available to stream here.
Clemson roared to start doubles, going up a break to take 3-1 leads on all three courts. Maxwell Smith and Spencer Whitaker put their foot on the gas on court one, taking down James Story and Casey Hoole, 6-2. Up 40-15, Smith’s serve down the middle was returned into the net to clinch the match. Marko Mesarovic and Stewart Aronson looked poised to claim a win on court two after taking a 5-1 lead, but a late charge from Samuel and Daryabeigi two games back.
That gave Ryuhei Azuma and Wissam Abderrahman time to finish off their match on court three, 6-4, against Da Silva and Sarr. Azuma served up 5-4, and tallied four straight points to clinch the doubles point when Abderrhamen volleyed South Carolina’s return at a difficult angle, which Sarr played into the net.
The Gamecocks claimed five first sets in singles, setting up a battle in the second sets.
Azuma dropped his match on court one, 6-1, 6-1 to tie the match at 1-1. Da Silva then beat Pitts, 6-1, 6-1 and Whitaker fought back from a 5-1 deficit in the second set before ultimately falling, 6-3, 6-4, giving South Carolina a 3-1 advantage.
Abderrahman continued his strong play into singles, claiming his first set 6-4 over No. 92 Casey Hoole on court two, and going up an early break in the second set. Hoole fought back, but Abderrahman had a huge break at 5-5, and would go on to win his match, 6-4, 7-5 to keep Clemson alive.
In the remaining singles matches, freshmen Marko Mesarovic and Stewart Aronson each took early leads in their second sets. Aronson fought off match point with a key break to extend his second set on court five, and would hold to take a 6-5 lead and ultimately force a third set with a 7-4 win in the tiebreaker against fellow freshman Sean Daryabeigi.
Mesarovic, who bounced back from a 7-5 loss in the first set to win the second 6-4, fell down two breaks against Sarr in the third set, falling down 5-0. Mesarovic would take the next two games, and had another break bid fall just short as the Gamecocks clinched.
Aronson was out to a 5-2 lead in the third set when the match concluded.
FINAL: #2 South Carolina 4, Clemson 2
Records: Clemson: 2-1; South Carolina: 2-0
Wissam getting it done in Columbia 👑 pic.twitter.com/AwGn7Fvt4m— Clemson Men's Tennis (@ClemsonMTennis) January 27, 2024
Wissam getting it done in Columbia 👑 pic.twitter.com/AwGn7Fvt4m
— Clemson Men's Tennis (@ClemsonMTennis) January 27, 2024
Not finished yet.😤 pic.twitter.com/qmAxdqbNT6— Clemson Men's Tennis (@ClemsonMTennis) January 27, 2024
Not finished yet.😤 pic.twitter.com/qmAxdqbNT6
Amazing performance from court one 💪 pic.twitter.com/aHEThimyfR— Clemson Men's Tennis (@ClemsonMTennis) January 27, 2024
Amazing performance from court one 💪 pic.twitter.com/aHEThimyfR
That winning feeling 🤩Singles up next 👀 pic.twitter.com/wYbfbvkVUu— Clemson Men's Tennis (@ClemsonMTennis) January 27, 2024
That winning feeling 🤩
Singles up next 👀 pic.twitter.com/wYbfbvkVUu