The only thing that delayed a march to victory by the Wake Forest men’s tennis team on Friday against Morgan State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament was that the preceding match ran about 15 minutes long.
The Deacons, seeded No. 4 for the tournament and the reigning national champions, shut out Morgan State 5-0 at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex. Wake Forest (30-3) will play Kentucky (16-14), which won 4-1 against VCU, at 3 p.m. Saturday in the second round.
Against Morgan State, Wake Forest easily won the doubles point and dominated the singles matches, only giving up one game in the first sets of each of those six matches.
“Exceed expectations? I don’t know,” Coach Tony Bresky of Wake Forest said. “At the end of the day, you really don’t care. You just want to get the win. So I think we were able to accomplish that. Once you get to the NCAA Tournament anything can happen. Everyone’s good. Obviously, Morgan State had a great year. Congrats to them, winning their conference (MEAC) and they came out and battled.
“Our guys obviously were a little too good today, and we’re very happy to get through the match.”
Even though Morgan State (14-8) was overwhelmed, it took something positive out of their first appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“It was a great experience for us,” Coach Matthew Townes of the Bears said. “Early on, we were a little shell-shocked coming out. I wish we would’ve started a little earlier. Towards the second half of the match in the second set of singles we started playing a lot better. Wake Forest is a tremendous team. They had a great crowd here. It was definitely a tough environment to play in, but we were thankful for the opportunity and look forward to it next year.”
Senior Petros Chrysochos, the No. 2 seed for Wake Forest and the defending national champion in singles, won the first singles point after pummeling Serhii Kharchev 6-0, 6-1.
“It’s great to be back on the court competing for another national title,” Chrysochos said. “It’s great to be home one last time I play in front of the home crowd. We’ve got two more to go (if it defeats Kentucky and plays in the Super Regional next Friday). We’re trying to have the same mentality like last year, taking it match-by-match, looking up further in the quarters and semis and finals. We don’t do that anymore.
“We’ve got Kentucky tomorrow, and we’ve got to get back to work and come out with the same intensity, and take care of business and see what’s next.”
Freshman Melios Efstathiou of the Deacons defeated Sebastian Lopez 6-0, 6-1 to give the Deacons a 3-0 lead and put them just one point from clinching the match. Freshman Siddanth Banthia clinched the match at No. 6 singles after defeating Shrey Gupta 6-1, 6-2.
“This is what we expected, to get through this fast,” Banthia said. “I’m happy with the win. We’ve been training the past few days. I’m looking forward to every match we play, and I hope we go through the tournament with such ease because we’re playing some great tennis.”
Even though Banthia clinched the match, he and No. 4 Rrezart Cungu were on side-by-side courts and both were neck-and-neck as to which player would clinch the match first. Cungu and Banthia started their final points simultaneously and Banthia finished just seconds before Banthia. Therefore, since the points were played at the same time, Cungu’s result counted.
“We were at 40-love and I shouted at Rezzy, saying, ‘Can you take some more time?’ because I wanted to clinch it,’” Bathia said. “I was glad I got a good return and got it a little before.”
Despite Wake Forest rolling to an easy win and Kentucky playing a long match, the Deacons said not to look too much into that.
“I don’t think they’re going to be struggling from a physical standpoint,” Bresky said. “They’ll be excited to play us and our guys will ready to compete, as well.”