There are a few businesses throughout Columbia that provide tennis lessons at a cost. Those looking to save money, however could have spent their Sunday at the Mizzou Tennis Complex.
No. 17 Kentucky (11-3, 3-1 Southeastern Conference) put on a clinic for the fans in attendance with a dominant 4-0 shutout of Missouri (11-6, 0-3). The dual marked the first time the Tigers have been shutout this season.
The Tigers have now lost five of their last six matches. The lone win came against a lesser opponent in UMKC while the losses have all come against ranked teams.
If Missouri wants to have any success in the SEC, it will have to improve against quality competition. There are no slouches waiting to play the Tigers. Of the 10 teams remaining on Missouri's schedule, just one, Mississippi State, is currently unranked.
"This is not something we haven't been through," Missouri coach Colt Gaston said. "The SEC has always been tough, and we know what we're getting ready for."
After struggling outdoors Friday against Vanderbilt in a 4-1 loss, the winter wonderland brought the Tigers back indoors. The change of scenery didn't help.
Though nothing translated to the scoreboard, Sunday's result wasn't all bad for Missouri. While the Tigers did lose the doubles point, they were competitive. Gaston might have found a suitable doubles parings, as he went with the same lineup that won the doubles point Friday.
Serena Nash and Amina Ismail easily won their match, 6-1, while the duos of Mackenzy Middlebrooks/Ellie Wright and Marta Oliveira/Clare Raley played close matches but came up short.
"This was another opportunity; we put ourselves in a good spot to do it," Gaston said. "We've got to do a better job of finishing."
Nash, a sophomore, continued to play well in doubles. The Bradford, England product was part of a ranked doubles team with Raley, and has since built great chemistry alongside Ismail.
"We're really good friends off the court, like best friends," Nash said. "We help keep each other relaxed."
Just as it did Friday, Missouri only managed to win one set in singles action. On Sunday, it came courtesy of Mackenzy Middlebrooks. The sophomore lost her first match since Oct. 19 on Friday, but bounced back in emphatic fashion with Sunday's performance.
Middlebrooks was left somewhat disappointed, however, as her match was left unfinished after Kentucky clinched the overall win. She looked to be heading for a win, up 7-6 (3), 4-3 before the match was cut off. The Fort Lauderdale, Florida, product is 12-1 during the dual season.
Nash had a competitive first set with Justina Mikulskytť, ranked 122nd nationally, before wearing out in the second set. She lost the match 7-6 (2), 6-3.
Nash's loss makes Missouri 1-18 in singles matches versus ranked opponents this dual season. There is no question the Tigers will have to improve in a conference chock full of top players.
"Nobody on this team is okay with losing," Gaston said. "We're gonna continue to work hard and do some extra things off the court and get ourselves where we need to get to to finish."
Missouri will now do something it has not done since Feb. 3: play a dual away from Columbia. After a 10-match home stand in which the Tigers went 5-5, Missouri hits the road for the first time in over a month for its next pair of matches.
The Tigers have a date with No. 35 Texas A&M set for 3 p.m. Thursday in College Station, before heading east to take on No. 36 LSU on Saturday.
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