Tennessee men's tennis team fights back, but falls short to Florida, 4-3

It was a tough Sunday for the Tennessee men’s tennis team.

The No. 6-ranked Vols almost pulled off a comeback victory before being upset by No. 35 Florida 4-3 at Barksdale Stadium.

Florida (8-6, 2-2 SEC) clinched the match at No. 6 singles when freshman Luke Johnson beat UT senior John Collins 4-6, 7-6 (4), 7-5.

Johnson said it was his first time being in a deciding match at the college level.

“It was nice to get that first big win for the team,” the Englishman said.

It was an ending that typified UT’s day.

The Vols (15-6, 2-3) lost the doubles point for the first time in five matches, and not long after that, they took another blow.

UT’s Brandon Fickey, a sophomore from Webb School, twisted his right ankle during the first game of his No. 3 singles match against Stephane Piro.

Fickey immediately took a medical timeout for treatment. He was treated during a changeover and continued to play with an obvious limp.

Piro won the match 6-0, 6-4 after trailing 0-3 in the second set.

“We didn’t lose that match because Brandon went down in that first game,” UT coach Sam Winterbotham said. “We lost that match because guys as a team, we did not play to win. We did not play to win in doubles, and we did not play to win 1 through 6 in singles.”

UT fell behind 0-3 when Florida’s Billy Federhofer posted a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Jarryd Chaplin at No. 4 singles.

The Vols then tied the match with singles victories by Mikelis Libietis (No. 1), Hunter Reese (No. 2), and Ed Jones (No. 5).

That left the match hinging on the outcome of the Johnson-Collins match.

Johnson led 3-0 in the third, but Collins won the next four games — taking a 4-3 lead with a service break.

In the next game, Collins trailed when he called a ball out that the chair umpire overruled and said was good. Since it was Collins’ third overrule, he was assessed a point penalty.

Johnson broke serve and tied the match 4-all.

“That (third over-rule) swung the momentum of that match back in their favor because we’re playing tight, we’re playing scared, we’re playing not to lose,” Winterbotham said.

Both players held serve until Johnson broke at 6-5 to win the match.

“We’ve got to try and figure out how we get this team to understand they’ve got to play to win,” Winterbotham said. “That’s our challenge right now.”

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