Tennessee tennis has the best doubles pair in the nation. Friday afternoon, Adam Walton and Pat Harper defeated Auburn’s Finn Murgett and Tad Maclean to claim the NCAA Men’s Tennis Doubles Championship.
"I'm really happy for our entire team and everyone who has played a part in our success this year," head coach Chris Woodruff said. "This has been a journey of improvement both physically and mentally for all the players. Adam and Pat have worked incredibly hard and I know they will cherish this victory forever."
The Australian duo had won four matches in the Tournament to advance to the finals, before outlasting Murgett and Maclean in a thrilling super tiebreak victory.
The match’s opening set established the tone of this one early on -- close as it gets. The Vols held serve at 5-6 and earned the 7-5 tiebreak victory to take the first set, 7-6(5).
They would drop the second set 6-2, however, in what was their least competitive set of the afternoon.
“We won the tie breaker and were super stoked,” Harper said. “But we sort of dropped off the ball a bit in the second. We knew after that second set finish, we just said, ‘Balls to the wall, let’s take this.’”
In the match deciding super tiebreak, Tennessee and Auburn’s duos matched each other point for point. The set was tied at each of the first three change overs at 3-3, 6-6 and 9-9. Auburn took two of the next three points, and had the Vols down to match point, when they battled off a serve from Murgett to tie the score at 11-11.
“We knew this was our last tiebreaker we’re going to play for a long time,” Harper said on the mindset in the last set. “Pretty much, leave it all out there. Bring the energy, we’re not going to have an opportunity like this for a while. So we just had to leave it all out there and bring the energy.”
Walton and Harper fought off another Murgett serve to take a 12-11 lead, with a chance to serve for the match. On match point, Walton lifted a half volley over the far side of the net to give Tennessee’s pair a 13-11 win and the National Championship.
“It’s just a credit to all the hard work we’ve been doing throughout the season,” Walton said. “I mean, we knew we were playing our best tennis in May when it mattered. To finish with a trophy is just unbelievable.”
Walton and Harper’s doubles championship is the third in program history, and first since Hunter Reese and Mikelis Libietis did it in 2014. The duo ended the season on a 12-match win streak, winning 17 of their final 18 sets. They finished the year 31-7 as a pair and 19-6 in doubles play.
"This was easily one of the most rewarding feelings I've had in my career,” Woodruff said. “Getting to watch how hard these guys have worked to improve their doubles has been incredible.”
“I think what makes us click well, is that we enjoy playing together,” Harper said. “We’re from the same country, we live together pretty much. We just click on all cylinders. I think when we click, I think we’re definitely the best team in the country and no one can stop us.”