Lexington, Ky. - The Indiana men's tennis team dropped a tough 5-2 decision to No. 9 Kentucky on Saturday afternoon. The Hoosiers (10-2) had to play without their No. 1 singles player in Jakub Praibis, who was out with a thumb injury. Indiana not only battled the loss of its top player, but the windy weather conditions as they played outside for the first time this season.
"It was tough playing outside for the first time this season and having to deal with the windy conditions," Indiana interim head coach Matt Pledger said. "It was difficult on both teams, the wind was gusting at 30 to 40 miles per hour. We came in thinking we had nothing to lose with Jakub out. I am proud of the way our guys played. You just really have to tip your hat to Kentucky."
Kentucky started out fast and was able to adapt to the conditions first as they picked up the doubles point. Evan Austin and Alex Hume downed Indiana's Tom Bagnato and John Stone at No. 3 doubles, 8-1. The Wildcats then clicked the point with a win at No. 1 doubles. Karim Benmansour and Matt Emery beat senior Zach Held and sophomore Ryan Recht, 8-4.
Jesse Witten upped the UK led to 2-0 with a win at No. 1 singles. The 10th ranked singles player in the nation downed Viktor Libal, 6-1, 6-0. Libal fell to 9-8 on the year with the loss.
Recht posted Indiana's first win of the day at No. 5 singles. The Fort Wayne, Indiana native played perhaps his best match of the season winning easily over Matt Emery, 6-0, 6-1. Recht picked up his 10th win of the season and is now 8-4 in dual matches.
"Ryan came back after playing tight last weekend," Pledger said. "He played a fabulous match considering the conditions."
Kentucky then picked up the team victory with wins at No. 2 and No. 3 singles.
Sophomore Tom Bagnato won the Hoosiers only other match at No. 4 singles. After winning the first set, 6-3, Kentucky's Rahim Esmail retired on serve at 4-3 in the second set. Esmail came into the match ranked 104th in the country. Bagnato evened his mark at 4-4 and has won his last two matches.
"Tom Bagnato continued to play well," Pledger said. "He won at No. 4 after Kentucky's player had to retire with an injury. He won the first set and was on serve in the second. I believe if they finished that match Tom would have won it. It was a real impress win because that guy has been Kentucky's best point all season."
The Hoosiers will have 11 days off before their next match. Indiana will travel on their spring break trip to battle No. 19 Auburn and No. 31 Georgia Tech. IU will take on Auburn on Wednesday, March 19 at 1:30 p.m., and then Georgia Tech Friday, March 21 at 2:00 p.m.
No. 9 Kentucky 5, No. 38 Indiana 2
Singles 1. No. 10 Jesse Witten (UK) def. Viktor Libal (IU) 6-1, 6-0
2. Evan Austin (UK) def. Zach Held (IU) 6-1, 6-1
3. Karim Benmansour (UK) def. Petr Novotny (IU) 6-2, 6-4
4. Tom Bagnato (IU) def. No. 104 Rahim Esmail (UK) 6-3, 4-3, retire
5. Ryan Recht (IU) def. Matt Emery (UK) 6-0, 6-1
6. Alex Hume (UK) def. Julien Vulliez (IU) 6-3, 7-5