With the Rice men’s tennis team facing several ranked opponents, Rice freshman Tommy Bennett has risen to the occasion.
Bennett is 10-4 this season, including winning seven of his past nine matches. He was the only Owl to pick up a point in a 6-1 loss to No. 15 Texas A&M Thursday. He also has wins over opponents from No. 11 Mississippi State and No. 29 Texas Tech.
Bennett is 5-0 when playing No. 4 singles. He got a chance to play No. 3 singles at Miami but fell to Wilfredo Gonzalez 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. He lost a first set tiebreaker Thursday against Jackson Withrow of Texas A&M, but dominated the second set 6-0. He won the Super Tiebreaker 10-7.
“Tommy did what he does best, he kept points alive and never gave in even after dropping the tiebreak in the first set,” said Rice coach Efe Ustundag.
The Owls are 2-4 this spring, with wins over Lamar and Texas Pan-American. They are 0-4 against teams from the SEC, ACC and Big 12, though they nearly pulled off a win against Texas Tech. Other Owls with winning singles records this season are German junior Philipp Seifert (10-6), Houston native senior Jonathan Chang (11-8) and Swedish freshman Adam Gustafsson (9-8). Complete tennis stats can be found here.
Back in England, Bennett was ranked as high as 22 in the British ITA junior rankings in his age group and he reached 59th overall in the Great Britain ITA men’s rankings. He has played in the Junior Championships at Wimbledon and reached the semifinals twice in AEGON Junior International events.
At Rice, Bennett teams up Gustafsson for doubles. The duo is 7-6 on the season. Because of an injury to Peter Frank, Bennett and Gustafsson got the chance to play No. 1 doubles Thursday and they nearly pulled off a win over the Aggies top doubles team.
“I was really pleased with the way we came out and played in doubles,” Ustundag said. “Adam and Tommy met the challenge of playing on the stadium court for the first time and looked like that was where they belong. They really rose up to the occasion, but their one bad game cost them.”
Bennett, Gustafsson and the rest of the Owls travel to LSU on Thursday and then host TCU at 1:30 p.m. Sunday. The LSU match was originally scheduled for Sunday, but it was cancelled due to rain.