Photo courtesy goaztecs.com
April 26, 2019 (Fresno) - Battling sultry conditions for the second straight day, fourth-seeded San Diego State advanced to the title match of the Mountain West Men’s Tennis Championship with a dramatic 4-3 victory over New Mexico in the semifinal round Friday at Spalding G. Wathen Tennis Center.
With the result, the Aztecs will face the winner of the Utah State-Fresno State encounter for the conference crown on Saturday at 1 p.m. Links to live stats and streaming video will be available on goaztecs.com via the Mountain West Network.
In addition, SDSU (15-9) defeated the Lobos for the third straight year at the MW Championship, advancing to the tournament final for the first time since 2010, when it dropped a 4-3 decision to TCU.
Jan Kirchhoff provided the clinching point for the Aztecs at the No. 2 position on Friday after storming back for a three-set triumph over Dominic West 2-6, 6-4, 7-5. In the final set, the Berlin, Germany, native raced to a 3-1 lead, only to see his Lobo adversary rally take the next three games for a 4-3 advantage. Moments later, the SDSU sophomore had a chance to close out the dual after reclaiming a 5-4 lead; however, an overhand smash went long and West eventually knotted the score at 5-5.
Undaunted, Kirchhoff went back to work, winning the next two games to finally put an end to the marathon affair, as his Aztec teammates erupted in jubilation.
SDSU came out firing on all cylinders in doubles, earning the pivotal point for the 10th time in its last 12 matches, with the all-MW duo of Sander Gjoels-Andersen supplying the winning result for the second day in a row, courtesy of a 6-3 decision over another all-conference pairing in Ricky Hernandez-Tong and Stepan Holis at the top of the rotation. With the victory, the Aztec tandem improved to 8-2 this spring.
Earlier on court two, Kirchhoff and Rafael Gonzalez Almazan wasted little time in their matchup with West and Facundo Bermejo at No. 2, posting a 6-0 shutout, as the Scarlet and Black improved to 12-2 in dual matches this year when capturing the doubles point.
With the doubles outcome no longer in doubt, the No. 3 match pitting the Aztecs’ Arnaud Restifo and Fabian Roensdorf against Tim Buttner and Nicolas Prieto was abandoned with the two sides deadlocked at 4-4.
Singles turned out to be a different story, however, as New Mexico (14-8) battled back to claim three of the first four decisions. The Lobos got on the board when Bermejo pinned a 6-1, 6-0 defeat on Restifo at No. 4.
SDSU answered with a straight-set victory of its own when Martinez won his third straight after dismissing Buttner in the fourth slot 6-2, 6-2. Moments later, though, Hernandez-Tong exacted a measure of revenge with a 6-3, 6-1 conquest of Gjoels-Andersen at the top of the ladder, while Holis followed suit by toppling Roensdorf at No. 3 6-4, 6-2.
With momentum tipping toward the UNM side, Gonzalez Almazan overcame a sluggish second set in his match versus Prieto in the sixth slot with a clutch performance in the third, where he ultimately prevailed 6-1, 0-6, 6-4, setting the stage for Kirchhoff’s heroics.
San Diego State is 3-4 all-time in Mountain West championship matches, winning in 2002 (BYU), 2003 (UNM) and 2005 (BYU) while suffering losses in 2000 (UNM), 2004 (UNM), 2006 (TCU) and 2010 (TCU). The Aztecs dropped both regular-season meetings vs. Utah State and Fresno State, falling to the Aggies 4-1 on the road March 29, before experiencing a 4-3 heartbreaker to the Bulldogs at home on April 5. SDSU’s 15 victories this season are its most since the 2015 squad posted a 19-9 ledger to earn an at-large NCAA tournament berth.
San Diego State 4,  New Mexico 3
April 26, 2019
Spalding G. Wathen Tennis Center
1. Sander Gjoels-Andersen/Ignacio Martinez (SDSU) def. Ricky Hernandez-Tong/Stepan Holis (NM) 6-3
2. Jan Kirchhoff/Rafael Gonzalez Almazan (SDSU) def. Facundo Bermejo/Dominic West (NM) 6-0
3. Arnaud Restifo/Fabian Roensdorf (SDSU) vs. Tim Buttner/Nicolas Prieto (NM) 4-4, DNF
Order of finish: 2, 1
SDSU wins doubles point
1. Ricky Hernandez-Tong (NM) def. Sander Gjoels-Andersen (SDSU) 6-3, 6-1
2. Kirchhoff (SDSU) def. Dominic West (NM) 2-6, 6-4, 7-5
3. Stepan Holis (NM) def. Fabian Roensdorf (SDSU) 6-4, 6-2
4. Ignacio Martinez (SDSU) def. Tim Buttner (NM) 6-2, 6-2
5. Facundo Bermejo (NM) def. Arnaud Restifo (SDSU) 6-1, 6-0
6. Rafael Gonzalez Almazan (SDSU) def. Nicolas Prieto (NM) 6-1, 0-6, 6-4
Order of finish: 5, 4, 1, 3, 6, 2*
* Match-clinching victory
Records: SDSU (15-9), UNM (14-8)