Mikelis Libietis, Hunter Reese can make UT history with victory at USTA/ITA

Tennessee’s Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese toughed out a three-set semifinal victory Saturday to preserve a chance to make history at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in Flushing, N.Y.

Libietis and Reese defeated the fourth-seeded Illinois team of Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 to advance to the title match at the USTA/ITA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.

“Today was a hard-fought match,” Tennessee associate head coach Chris Woodruff said. “I can’t say we played exceptionally well, but we did a pretty nice job of banding together down the stretch. The one thing that really impressed me is that under pressure, we came up with some shots. I think that’s the mark of a good player.”

With the win, the Vols’ No. 1-ranked pair have a rare opportunity to sweep both fall national doubles championships. Libietis and Reese won the ITA All-American Championships on Tulsa’s outdoor courts in October.

No Tennessee team has ever won multiple majors, let alone two consecutive titles.

Tennessee faces the home team in the final: Columbia’s Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur. The match starts at 10 a.m.

To start the semifinals, Libietis and Reese were ahead for much of the first set against the Illinois duo. The Vols broke the Illini serve at 2-1 and staved off multiple break points before Libietis eventually served out the set at 6-4.

Illinois took control of the second set on Libietis’ racquet. The Vol junior received a game penalty for racquet abuse, giving the Illini a 3-1 lead. Guignon and Kopinski maintained that lead and did not face a break point the rest of the set.

Libietis and Reese are the third team in program history to reach the finals of National Indoors. Chris Mahony and Pablo Montana won the tournament in 1996, and Paul Annacone and Mark Herrington reached the finals in 1984.

After doubles, Reese’s day was not over. Not by a long shot.

Reese started the afternoon in the consolation quarterfinals and scored a 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 victory over preseason No. 3 Peter Kobelt of Ohio State. Later, he lost to UCLA’s Marcos Giron, the sixth-ranked player nationally, 7-6 (2), 6-3.

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