MONTGOMERY – The No. 16-ranked Alabama men’s tennis team bested Fresno State, 4-1, in the first round of competition at the 71st playing of the Blue Gray National Tennis Classic at Lagoon Park Tennis Center on Friday. The Crimson Tide improved to 9-1 on the season after Friday’s victory.

“Good start today and great finish tonight,” said head coach George Husack. “The heat definitely had an impact on all the players and so we were given a choice – focus on the weather or the game plan. I credit our fitness coach Evan Van Nostrand for preparing these guys for challenging situations and instilling confidence in their abilities.”

Alabama took the early advantage over Fresno State (5-5) by snatching the doubles point for the 1-0 lead. Sophomore Patrick Kaukovalta and senior Mazen Osama skated past Angus Bradshaw and Mantas Bugailiskis, 6-4. Then, sophomore Sam Fischer and junior Alexey Nesterov picked up their first victory as partners against Patrik Pech and Cagatay Soke, 6-4.

“Sam Fischer and Jeremy Gschwendtner delivered today. They got the call and executed. Happy for them and how this team responded against a tough Fresno State.”

In singles play, Kaukovalta dominated Bradshaw, 6-4, 6-0, while junior Edson Ortiz defeated Bugailiskis, 7-6(4), 6-3. For the match, sophomore Jeremy Gschwendtner carried the team to victory, moving past Jeremy Moser, 6-2, 7-6(2) at No. 6 to pick up the Tide’s third-straight win.

Against No. 48 Ole Miss, the Tide used a comeback win from Ortiz and junior Zhe Zhou who defeated Fabian Fallert and Cotter Wilson, 6-3, while Osama and Kaukovalta battled till the end against Filip Kraljevic and Jan Seorentain, 7-6(9), to clinch the doubles point for Alabama.

“Tonight’s doubles were all about staying focused on what’s in front of you and not what could’ve happened, who we’re playing, or competing under the lights. Edson and Zhe got us started and Patrick and Mazen finished. It all adds up to one-point, so our job is not done.”

The Tide will return to action Saturday morning to finish up singles play against Ole Miss at 10:30 a.m. in Lagoon Park. Alabama will play another match tomorrow afternoon following the match versus the Rebels