Feb. 7, 2004
SEATTLE - Senior men's tennis player Tobias Clemens won the deciding singles match Saturday, propelling the No. 6 UCLA men's tennis team to a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over No. 7 Mississippi in the semifinals of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships hosted by the University of Washington. With the victory, UCLA (7-0) advances to Sunday's championship match and will meet top-seeded Illinois at Noon.
Mississippi looked strong from the start, easily taking the doubles point for a 1-0 lead. The Rebels registered an 8-3 victory at the No. 1 position and an 8-0 decision at the No. 3 doubles spot. The No. 2 doubles match was then suspended.
Forced to come from behind, the Bruins needed a strong showing in singles play and got just that. Bruin freshman Philipp Gruendler quickly tied the match following a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Fredrik Aarum at the No. 5 position.
Mississippi, however, would take a 3-1 lead with a pair of straight-set victories. Eric Claesson defeated Bruin sophomore Chris Surapol, 6-4, 6-3 at the No. 6 spot and Claes Lindholm knocked off junior Alberto Francis, 6-2, 6-4 at the No. 3 position.
UCLA quickly found itself needing to win all three of the remaining matches still on court. Next to finish was court No. 4, where Kris Kwinta defeated Juan Pablo Di Cesare, 6-3, 7-6(5). Kwinta was down 5-3 in the second set tiebreaker before winning four points in a row to close out the match. When Kwinta won his match, both Chris Lam and Tobias Clemens were headed to a third set.
Lam was next to finish, tying the dual match at 3-3 with a 7-5, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Paul Ciorascu at the No. 2 position. With that victory, all eyes turned to court No. 1, where Tobias Clemens was serving down 4-5 in the third set. Clemens, who pushed his winning streak to 22-straight matches Saturday, ended up winning the next three games for a 6-3, 5-7, 7-5 victory.
The Bruins have beaten Mississippi twice in the semifinals before (1996 & '97) and ended up winning the title both those years. UCLA has also faced Illinois twice at the National Team Indoors, defeating the Illini, 4-1 back in 1999 and losing 4-3 in 1998. Seattle has hosted this tournament four times and UCLA has won it every time.