Tulsa, Ok. – Newcomer Jaan Kononov (Talinn, Estonia) announced his entrance to UMBC men's tennis in grand fashion, as the transfer from Armstrong State won five matches before being eliminated in the second round of the qualifying portion of the 2014 ITA Men's All-American Championships.
The Saint Francis Health System ITA Men's All-American Championships is the first major championship of the fall collegiate season for the men has been hosted by the University of Tulsa at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center since 2005. Since 1979, this event has successfully combined competitors who had stellar seasons the year before with the cream of the crop from the freshman class.
Last season, UMBC junior Justin Carter (Randallstown, Md.) made it through four round of pre-qualifying before dropping a tough three-set match in the first round of qualifying.
Kononov opened play on Saturday with a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Muddappa Appanervanda of Illinois State, then rallied to defeat Simon Pritchard of Kennesaw State, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
The 12th-ranked NCAA Division II singles player in 2013 continued his run through the tournament with a relatively easy third round victory of Jonny Rigby of SIU-Carbondale, 6-1, 6-4. The junior then waged a tough battle with Eduardo Segura of Georgia Tech before prevailing, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 in the nightcap on Sunday.
Kononov became one of just 16 players to reach the qualifying round.
He really turned heads in Tulsa with a three-set win over No. 5 seed and top-50 player Brett Clark on Monday. Kononov weathered a first-half impressive display by the North Carolina player before breaking early in the second set to get on track. He would break the Tar Heel three times in the deciding set to prevail, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2.
"We wanted the longer rallies and Jaan was the steadier player in the third set," said head coach Rob Hubbard.
Playing for the sixth time in four days, a weary Kononov played well, but fell to a fresher Dragos Ignat of Columbia, 6-3, 6-4.
"He was very competitive and had some chances in the second set, but some big points just got away," said Hubbard.
Classmates Carter and Melker Svard (Gothenburg, Sweden) also competed and each won a match in Tulsa. Svard knocked off LSU's No. 2 player, triumphing 6-3, 6-4 over the Tigers' Boris Arias.
"All three players did well," Hubbard said. "Jaan really helped put us on the map, like Justin did last year. It is great for UMBC tennis to play so well on a national level."