It does not take much, but the Cup's coverage or Rebel tennis is probably the most comprehensive independent source anywhere. But we're fully aware that this is likely due to a lack of interest in the sport (compared to football, basketball, and baseball). In the South, everything plays second fiddle to football. Tennis probably plays the sousaphone, or some obscure Scandinavian instrument. But there's a dedicated fan base, and we're proud to be a part of it.
Which is why we feel the need to analogize something that happened on Sunday for those in the huge majority that do not follow tennis at any level. Here's what happened: Chris Thiemann won a third-set tiebreaker to clinch the Rebels' ninth straight SEC West championship.
Here's the back-story: the Rebels lost five of six starters this year to graduation, injury, transfer, and the pros. At every court, the team has had to grow up fast. Thiemann has been gimped up since taking a nasty spill two weeks ago against Florida. His brother, Marcel, had already had to retire at #1 singles in the second set due to over-heating. And the two of them had already played to a dramatic win at #1 doubles. After winning the point, set, and match, Thiemann fell to the court and was mobbed by his teammates.
The analogy: Thiemann's performance approached Pomeranz levels of digging epically deep. It wasn't McCluster against Tennessee (which looked more like effortless domination). It was deep, desperate and unbeatable will that stared at the brink and said in a calm, exhausted voice, "no."
In much the same way as the Rebels' responded against State in the River Hills Cup in January, this team has staked its claim on being kings of the SEC West Hill, and they refuse to let any amount of inexperience pull them from their perch. It's dramatic and exciting.
After the Grove Bowl, the Rebels will play their conference finale against Mississippi State. For conference seeding, the match is a nullity. The Rebels will be the #5 seed in the SEC tournament. Unless the gods pay penance for one of the great WTF moments in NCAA history from last year, I would be that the Rebels are on the outside looking in when it comes to hosting a regional, so a win would only keep hopes alive on that front. All in all, the implications of the match are few.
But this team is fun. And they're proud.So, it might be worth your time to check them out after you enjoy the other "game."