NORMAN — It was just 16 days earlier that coach John Roddick and his Oklahoma men’s tennis team lost a route at Baylor. That day, only Costin Paval, at No. 1 singles, topped his Bear opponent.
Paval lost Sunday at the Headington Family Tennis Center, site of the Big 12 tournament. Also, the 14th-ranked Sooners beat the 13th-ranked Bears 4-2 to claim their second straight conference title.
“Winning the first was hard and winning the second was harder,” Roddick said. “It’s a challenge and to start being in the mix every year … Our expectation (in) the players is starting to really show and the confidence from them has really risen.”
The closer was Axel Alvarez Llamas, a freshman Spaniard forced to remain composed even as the two matches on either side of him ended, both with Baylor victories.
Because OU won the doubles point, and because the Sooners had claimed two of three matches on the three courts opposite the grandstand, all OU needed was for Alvarez to keep it going.
He claimed the first set over Julian Lenz 7-6 (7-5), but was having an easier time of it in the second, up a break, 4-2, when he and Lenz became the focal point of the dual.
Lenz saved one match point, but a baseline winner from Alvarez Llamas earned a second. Maybe 12 shots into another long rally, the Sooner surprised the Bear with a forehand drop shot that didn’t come back.
Had it been grass or clay, the Sooners might have dogpiled. Instead they had to settle for excited screams and hugs all around.
Eventually, as their coach spoke to reporters, the players hit Roddick with a Gatorade bucket shower. Prior to that, much of the talk was about what happened at No. 3 doubles, the victory that allowed OU to claim its championship by breaking the singles matches even.