Tennessee’s duo of Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese are at the top of the collegiate doubles game.
Now there is no disputing it.
Already the top-ranked pair in college tennis, Reese and Libietis captured their first national title Sunday at the ITA All-American Championships.
But it came down to the wire. After losing the first set to UCLA’s Marcos Giron and Mackenzie McDonald 6-2, Reese and Libietis won the second set 6-1 and the deciding set in a tiebreak 7-6 (2). Libietis and Reese trailed 5-2 in the final set before staging a comeback.
In the deciding tiebreaker, Libietis ripped a crosscourt return and Reese followed with a putaway at the net to clinch the title.
Tennessee coach Sam Winterbotham said his players were able to come back because they were poised in a pressure situation.
“It was impressive toward the end of the match how Hunter and Mikelis relaxed and enjoyed it,” Winterbotham said. “They had the winning mindset. Focused, but loose. It was just a case of them executing.”
Libietis and Reese became the third team in Tennessee history to win the doubles title at the ITA All-American. They join John-Patrick Smith and Boris Conkic, (2009) and Byron Talbot and Shelby Cannon (1986).
Despite their success in dual matches during Tennessee’s season, the two had just a 1-4 record together between the NCAA Doubles Championships and the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
“For me, this means so much,” Libietis said. “We hadn’t done well in these tournaments. We’d lose first or second round. It was so frustrating. When we got the semifinals this week, it was good but I told Reesey we couldn’t stop there. It’s very rare that No. 1 seeds win tournaments, I think because of all the pressure. It was unbelievable that we finally won a major.”