TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – For only the fourth time in program history, the Alabama men’s tennis team is headed to the Round of 16 after upsetting No. 11 Florida State, 4-2, on Saturday night. The Crimson Tide (20-12) will head to Winston-Salem, N.C., and matchup against fellow SEC-foe, No. 5 Texas A&M on Friday.
“It feels incredible,” head coach George Husack said. “It started with doubles, guys were confident, believed and were strong. Our guys battled. We had three rain delays, it’s late and we finished under the lights, but there was no stopping them.”
“Before we went out (after each rain delay), we got in a big huddle and I think I said the same speech four times and they prevailed. So it’s incredible. They did such an incredible job today.”
The No. 3-seeded Tide, handed the regional host and No. 1-seeded Seminoles (28-5) just their fifth loss of the season. It’s the highest-ranked opponent UA has defeated since 2015 when Alabama bested No. 9 Ole Miss.
The Crimson Tide last advanced to the Round of 16 in 2007 when UA defeated East Tennessee and Duke in the Athens Regional. Alabama is 4-1 in postseason play in 2018, including nationally-ranked wins over No. 25 Kentucky, No. 23 Tulane and No. 11 Florida State.
With the match on the line, it was up to Zhe Zhou to clinch the match and send the Crimson Tide the Sweet 16. After dominating Rana-Roop Bhallar in the first set, 6-0, Bhallar answered in the second set by winning 6-1. Zhou started off hot in the third set by going up 3-0, but Bhallar again had an answer, as he tied things up at 3-3. The Tianjin, China native, showed excellent poise, as he returned with three-straight games to clinch the match and extend the Tide’s historic run.
1. No. 10 Mazen Osama vs. No. 25 Aziz Dougaz, 5-7, 7-5, 2-1, unf.
2. No. 44 Guy Iradukunda def. Patrick Kaukovalta, 6-0, 7-6 (7-4)
3. No. 35 Lucas Poullain def. Thibault Cancel, 6-3, 6-4
4. Edson Ortiz def. Jose Gracia, 6-3, 7-5
5. Alexey Nesterov def. Alex Knaff, 6-2, 6-4
6. Zhe Zhou def. Rana-Roop Bhallar, 6-0, 1-6, 6-3
1. No. 26 Osama/Ortiz vs. Dougaz/Poullain, 5-5, unf.
2. Cancel/Nesterov def. No. 60 Iradukunda/Knaff, 6-4
3. Zhou/Kaukovalta def. Gracia/Whitehurst, 6-3