UT teammates battle each other in Fall Invitational tennis finals

Tennessee tennis coach Sam Winterbotham enjoyed the view from the Barksdale Stadium stands Sunday during the finals of the Tennessee Fall Invitational.

His players, meanwhile, were scrapping it out against each other — to the point you would hardly know they were teammates.

In the top singles flight, No. 1-seeded Mikelis Libietis defeated No. 3 Brandon Fickey 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a final matching two UT sophomores.

Libietis, a Latvian who played No. 1 last season, defeated Fickey, a former Webb School player, in last year's Fall Invitational final.

There were some fiery moments from both players.

"We're on the same team, but when it comes down to it, no one wants to lose, and we both realize that," Fickey said. "We're both going to push each other to the limits, and it's going to make us better for the spring season."

Libietis went 5-0 in singles matches. Fickey was 4-1.

"This weekend was really good," Libietis said. "Every match I think I played better and better. Today I kind of struggled a little bit at the start, but at the end, I got the 'W,' so I'm pretty happy."

UT senior John Collins, a transfer from Maryland, defeated Vols senior Ed Jones 7-6 (4), 6-2 in the final of the second singles flight.

It was also an all-UT doubles final as Fickey and Hunter Reese beat Jones and Collins 8-5. Reese, the No. 2 seed in singles, played the doubles final with a sore knee that forced him to withdraw from the singles semifinals.

Winterbotham liked what he saw from his players Sunday.

"We talked about what we expected as coaches," he said. "We wanted to see them play great tennis and compete. They want to win. It's a tournament. You want to win the title. They handled it pretty well."

Reese has tendinitis in his knee that likely will keep him out of next weekend's ITA Regionals in Memphis.

Also questionable for next weekend is UT junior Jarryd Chaplin, who was forced to retire after rolling an ankle during the first set of a quarterfinal match Saturday.

Reese and Chaplin will continue workouts, but will be closely monitored.

"I think we'll still be able to get the work they need," Winterbotham said. "It's disappointing for them that they miss a tournament or two, but for me, the bigger picture is we'll still be able to get a lot of work with them. Thankfully it's not more serious injuries that might sideline them for months."

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