ELON, N.C. – It was déjà vu at The Jimmy Powell Tennis Center on Friday afternoon, with the result of a Southern Conference men’s tennis match hinging on the result of the singles match on court five for the second consecutive day. Once again, Elon’s Juan Madrid was the center of attention and the rookie battled off four match points, but ultimately succumbed to Samford’s Alexander Sajonz, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6 (6), as the Bulldogs pulled out a 4-3 victory over the host Phoenix.
Madrid, who played a singles match that spanned three hours and 11 minutes yesterday afternoon, competed for another three hours and 30 minutes on Friday. Both Sajonz and Madrid were limping around on legs that continued to cramp in the final set as fans and teammates urged them to victory.
After the two split sets, Madrid went up 3-0 in the final set before Sajonz won five of the next six games and had his first match point. Madrid battled to even the set at 5-5 and eventually shrugged off another match point to send the set to a tiebreaker. Down 4-6, Madrid won a point and benefitted from a Sajonz double fault to make it a 6-6 breaker. Finally, in Sajonz’ fifth match point opportunity, the Bulldog junior took the tiebreaker 8-6 to clinch the match.
Elon’s (8-13, 5-5) last three league losses have been by scores of 4-3. Samford improved to 13-3 on the year, 7-1 in league action. The win was the Bulldogs first over the Phoenix in the regular season since joining the conference in 2009.
Although Elon has struggled to win the doubles point this year, the Phoenix has played some tight matches and Friday was no different. Elon’s top duo of Cameron Silverman and Stefan Fortmann grabbed an early break and rolled to an 8-3 victory against Zac Dunkle and Sajonz. On court three, Elon’s Christopher Geaslen dropped three straight games and trailed Fernando Costa and Carson Kadi, 6-3, before battling back to even. The Samford pair managed a break and took home the 8-6 victory to force the tandems on court two to decide the point.
Trailing 6-4, Andrew Prince and Jordan Kaufman broke to make it 6-5, but the Bulldogs’ Elliot Barnwell and Ryan Shidler took the break right back en route to an 8-5 victory to clinch the doubles point.
Samford moved ahead 3-1 after winning two of the first three singles matches off the courts. Silverman, after dropping his first league match of the year yesterday in three sets, earned Elon’s first point with a solid 6-4, 6-1 win against Dunkle to finish the regular season with a 9-1 number one SoCon singles mark.
The final three matches each went three sets, the Phoenix needing victories in all three to claim the win.
Fortmann and Carlos Arboleda both overcame first set losses and secured Elon singles wins. Arboleda won his second straight match with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 decision against Garrison Laduca at number six. Fortmann, who also played a lengthy three-setter yesterday, pulled off the 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-3 win against Kadi to knot the match at three-all. The Phoenix rookie is 14-6 in dual matches this year.
Elon will have a short break before its regular-season finale on Saturday, April 14 at East Carolina. The match will begin at 1 p.m.