USC may have been the top ranked team in the country headed into the 2020 ITA Men's National Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin, but most thought the winner would come from the top half of a draw which was loaded full of stalwarts such as Ohio State, North Carolina, and Texas. However when the ice had thawed in chilly Madison it was the No. 2 seeded Trojans that were hoisting the hardware after claiming their first indoor title since 2012, fourth overall, with an authoritative 4-1 win over the No. 4 seed North Carolina.
Just one day earlier USC was on the ropes and getting a standing ten count after dropping the doubles point and five first sets against Michigan but a trio of three sets wins set the stage for Monday's final against a Tar Heel team that had blown past both Ohio State and Florida.
The all-important doubles point would be decided by a tiebreak at No. 1 between a pair of teams that entered the match undefeated during the four-day tournament. The reason it came down to No. 1 is because UNC's Rinky Hijikata and Ben Sigouin finished the weekend 3-0 at No. 3 doubles after a 6-2 win while USC's Mor Bulis and Brandon Holt won 6-2 at No. 2. The Bulis/Holt duo knocking off the ITA's No. 3 ranked doubles team of Mac Kiger and Simon Soendergaard was somewhat surprising because neither Holt or Bulis had won a doubles match all weekend with Holt not playing doubles the previous two matches due to illness.
The match at No. 1 doubles between USC's Daniel Cukierman/Riley Smith and UNC's Will Blumberg/Brian Cernoch saw no breaks of serve and in fact only saw 1 of the 12 service games reach the deciding point. The one instance where there was a break opportunity came when Cernoch held while serving at 3-4.
In the tiebreak, Blumberg and Cernoch won the first three points and would eventually lead 5-2. Riley Smith won both points on his serve to trim the deficit to 4-5 and then Smith and Cukierman won the next two points on Blumberg's serve despite the fact that Blumberg and Cernoch had won 14 of the 17 points on Blumberg's serve up until that point. USC would make it five straight points after Riley Smith hit a volley winner and just like that USC had the doubles point and the 1-0 lead.
I just dusted off my live scoring page and added links for this weekend's ITA Kickoff matches - I still have more to add for Saturday/Sunday but they should all be there for today's matches. Unfortunately I don't see myself being able to do any kind of match recaps because I won't have that kind of time but I figured the scoring links/schedule were better than nothing.
NCAA Singles & Doubles Finals Recap: Jubb & Perez-Somarriba Win Singles Titles; UCLA Sweeps Doubles TitlesWritten by Bobby Knight
History was made on Saturday with Paul Jubb becoming the first South Carolina man to win the NCAA Singles Championship after the junior from Hull, England, halted the 31-match winning streak of Mississippi State senior Nuno Borges.
Jubb, who also became the first British man to win the NCAA Singles Championship, took the early advantage after breaking Borges's opening service game but Borges broke back and held for 2-1. Jubb would regain the lead with a break on the deciding point for 4-3 and then after holding on the deciding point he'd break one more time to take the opening set 6-3.
Jubb went ahead 2-0 in the second set but Borges broke back and held for 2-2. It'd be all holds the rest of the way and then in the tiebreak Jubb opened up a 4-1 lead and cruised to take it 6-3, 7-6(2).
"I was so relentless with my feet," Jubb said. "That was the main thing we were saying with my coach, just going into every single ball. I'm one of the toughest players from the back and my tempo is so high, so I was just trying to keep that up the whole match."
"Unbelievable," Jubb said after the match. "I had to overcome so much mental toughness after losing to him twice this season. Overcoming that fear and regaining believe that I could win was so big for me today, and I did it."
"I look back, and it's amazing what I've done," Borges said. "People tell me how great my career has been and I have to take from that moving foward. I should be proud of myself for what I've done and take all of the positives from my tennis into the future."
"Nuno's a warrior," MSU head coach Matt Roberts said. "I was happy that he was able to develop here at Mississippi State and use our program to take him to the next level to where he can be a successful tennis pro. That, for me, is a huge step forward for our program. I'm just really proud of him for being such an incredible ambassador for Mississippi State and for college tennis. We can't wait to see what he does on the pro tour, and he always has a family here at Mississippi State."
NCAA Singles & Doubles Semifinals Recap: Borges and Jubb in Men's Singles Final; Perez-Somarriba and Jokic in Women's Singles Final; UCLA Will Have a Chance to Sweep DoublesWritten by Bobby Knight
The third time was the charm for Nuno Borges after the Mississippi State senior advanced to the finals of the NCAA Men's Singles Championship after a straight set win over TCU senior Alex Rybakov. Borges was playing in the NCAA Semifinals for the third year in a row but after losses the last two years he put it all together on Friday and became the first MSU men's player to advance to the NCAA Singles Final.
The opening set was back and forth with a total of five breaks of serve with the last coming when Borges broke Rybakov's 5-6 service game after Rybakov had three set points at 40/15.
In the second set, Rybakov broke Borges to go up 2-1 but Borges immediately broke back for 2-2. After a Borges hold for 3-2, he broke Rybakov for 4-2 and then it was all holds the rest of the way in the 7-5, 6-3 win.
"Today was about seeing who could apply the game plan better," Borges said. "We knew each other pretty well, so I knew I had to stick to my game plan and stay tough. I think, at the end, he was a little more tired than I was, so that helped me."
After the match Rybakov talked about what what makes Borges such a tough opponent, "He has the same intensity point in and point out. There are some guys here that will give you some here and there, but he makes you play every point. I had a couple three setters, today my legs were a little a bit tired and he got the best of me."
Borges will carry a 31-match winning streak into the final with two of those wins coming over his finals opponent, South Carolina junior Paul Jubb.
Jubb became the first Gamecocks man to advance to the finals after a three-set win over Illinois junior Aleks Kovacevic.
In the opening set, Jubb came back from 0-3 down to get it back on serve at 4-5 however Kovacevic would break back on the deciding point to take the set 6-4.
The second set started off with an exchange of breaks but Jubb would add a second break to go up 3-2. It'd be all holds the rest of the set with Jubb forcing a third after taking the second 6-4. "My coaches were saying that it 'doesn't matter if you run out of time in the first set; you're moving in the right direction, so just try to keep it going in the second set,' Jubb said. "I started seeing the ball a bit better and moving to the ball a bit better on my forehand. Things just started going forward in my direction."
Jubb took over in the final frame with a break to start the set and then he'd add a second break to go up 4-1. After an exchange of holds, Jubb served it out to win 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.
Kovacevic on how he would sum up his week in Orlando, "It was a great week. I took every opportunity I could. I really wanted it, to go all the way, but it happens. Credit to Paul, he played unbelievable. He’s a really good player, this was one of the matches where I really felt like I was pushed. I was on the defensive a lot and my game is usually to take it to him and play on the offense but he did a really good job of taking that away from me in the second and third sets so credit to him. I’ll just have to come back stronger next year.
When talking about his finals opponent (Borges), Jubb had this to say, "It's a great matchup. We've played twice already this season and both pushed each other to the limit. I'm going to do my best and see how it goes."
The men's final begins at 4 pm eastern and will be broadcast live on the Tennis Channel with live scoring available at this link.
NCAA Singles & Doubles Quarterfinals Recap: ACC Women Continue Strong Play in Women's Singles; Top Seeds Advance in Men's Singles Draw; SEC Dominated Men's Doubles Draw; Top Seeds Excel in Women's Doubles DrawWritten by Bobby Knight
Despite a slew of early upsets the top two women's seeds still remain in what will be an ACC-heavy semifinals while on the men's side it'll be an upperclassmen-laden semifinals with three of the top four seeds still alive.
Women's top seed Miami junior Estela Perez-Somarriba advanced to the semifinals for the second time in three years after a 6-4, 6-4 win over Illinois sophomore Asuka Kawai. Perez-Somarriba on how she felt her match today went, "I think it took me awhile to get used to her ball, especially the serve. Once I was able to figure that out, I think that I was more confident and trusting all of my shots. On her second appearance in the semifinals, "Well, I think that the other years I gained a lot of confidence. This is all about the process and learning about past matches. I’m really happy that I was in this situation a couple of years ago and I’m happy I’ve had the opportunity to fight and play for the rest of Miami and do my best."
Perez-Somarriba's semifinal opponent will be North Carolina freshman Cameron Morra, who became the first UNC women to reach the semifinals as a freshman, after defeating Texas Tech senior Felicity Maltby 6-3, 5-7, 6-3.
Women's second seed Georgia sophomore Katarina Jokic became the ninth Georgia women to advance to the semifinals after coming back from a set and break down to defeat UCLA junior Jada Hart 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 in 2 hours and 45 minutes. Jokic, who was playing her 12th match in the last 7 days (singles/dubs) fell behind 4-6, 1-3 before rallying to win the second set 6-4. Jokic also went down a break in the third set at 1-2 before breaking back and closing it out on a deciding point hold.
Jokic was back on the court a short while later to play doubles but she and Lourdes Carle fell 10-8 in the third set supertiebreak to Michigan's Kate Fahey and Brienne Minor. Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace on Jokic's day, "It was a really tough match today. Both players really gave it everything they had. Kat [Jokic] was so tired I wasn't even sure if she was going to get through this thing. There was a moment during the match [in singles] it was almost like 'should we stop for health reasons', but she just kept playing and she reached a level that was absolutely incredible. She found just barely enough energy to get through it. And then quite honestly I didn't think she would be able to get back out there for doubles, but a cold shower, a little bit to eat, and a massage, she got ready, and played some really good doubles. We had a huge opportunity there, but lost a close one in a 10-point tiebreaker. They played really well and I'm really proud that they are All-Americans."
Jokic's semifinal opponent will be Duke sophomore Kelly Chen, who became the fifth Duke women to reach the semifinals, after a 6-3, 6-4 win over UNC junior Sara Daavettila. Chen jumped out to big leads in each set leading 5-0 in the first and 3-0 in the second. “I am really excited,” Chen said. “It’s my first time in the semifinals and I’m excited for what’s to come tomorrow.”
Both women's semifinals will start no earlier than 5 pm eastern.
The singles draws have reached the quarterfinal round with only two seeds remaining on the women's side (top two seeds) while 5 of the top 8 men's seeds remain though there was a big upset in the Round of 16.
The big upset came when Florida freshman Sam Riffice came back from a set down to knock out on of the favorites No. 2 seed JJ Wolf (Ohio State) 3-6, 6-3, 6-2. Wolf entered the match with a 35-1 singles record (31 straight set wins) and had only dropped 7 sets all season but Riffice was able to get it going in the last two sets. Riffice on how he fought through after dropping the first set, "I had a lot of chances in the first set, I was up a break early on. I just wasn’t serving well. I kind of changed up where I was placing my serves and I tried to serve with more body just because he’s got such powerful swings. I tried to not let him extend, so I tried jamming him up. I felt like I was holding my serve a lot more, I knew I was in his service games, I had a lot of close chances and he served his way out. I felt like over time I broke down his serve which happened late in the second and the third sets."
Riffice on how he pulled out the win, "I think I played an amazing match today. I had a good game plan to disrupt his rhythm since he’s such a powerful player. He’s got a really good serve and first strike afterward. I was trying to mix up the rhythm; slice a lot, get the ball over his head and do those types of things to throw him off and disrupt him. I thought I executed my game plan really well today."
Men's top seed Nuno Borges (Miss State) had a great day on the court. The Bulldog senior only dropped 1 game in a straight set rout over Tennessee's Timo Stodder and then later Borges and his doubles partner Strahinja Rakic dropped just 3 games in a win over Cal's Jacob Brumm and Yuta Kikuchi (Cal). Borges is now 35-2 on the year in singles while he and Rakic are 23-10 on the year in doubles. Borges and Rakic on what’s been clicking for the pair, "Sometimes we make the same call in the serve at the same exact time. We feel each other, we play similar, we know what we want. That’s how it is, if you understand each other, it helps."
According to Mississippi State's recap, the Bulldogs became the first team since Stanford in 1998 to have 2 players make the singles quarterfinals and 2 teams make the doubles quarterfinals. Joining Borges in the singles quarterfinals was Giovanni Oradini who came back from a set down to edge Columbia's Jack Lin 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 while Oradini and Niclas Braun advanced to the doubles quarterfinals with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Northwestern's Simen Bratholm and Nick Brookes.