For the first time in school history the Texas Longhorns are the NCAA Men’s National Champions after the No. 2 seed defeated the defending NCAA Champs Wake Forest 4-1.
It was a wild year in Austin that saw longtime head coach Michael Center get dismissed after his involvement in the big admissions scandal and then a month later the program achieved a No. 1 national ranking for the first time in program history. The upperclassmen-laden roster stuck together during the tough times and despite a somewhat surprising loss in the Big XII Tournament to Baylor they hit their peak during the NCAA Tournament and ran over one tough opponent after another.
Sunday’s final didn’t start off on the best note for the Horns after they dropped the doubles point for the first time since the second round against South Florida.
Wake Forest had dropped the doubles point in four consecutive matches so they made a change at No. 3 and replaced Sid Banthia’s usual partner, Melios Efstathiou, with Julian Zlobinsky. Banthia and Zlobinsky hadn’t played together since late March and Texas’s Chih Chi Huang and Yuya Ito would pounce early and break for 2-1. Huang and Ito extended the lead to 5-1 and would go on to win 6-2.
Wake’s Bar Botzer and Petros Chrysochos jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Colin Markes and Leo Telles at No. 2 and it’d be all holds the rest of the way with Wake winning 6-3.
The deciding match at No. 1 saw six straight holds to start the match until Wake’s Alan Gadjiev and Borna Gojo broke Harrison Scott’s serve on the deciding point to take a 4-3 lead. Gadjiev held for 5-3 and then Scott’s partner Christian Sigsgaard held for 4-5. Gojo would serve it out at love to give Wake the 6-4 win.
Wake came out strong in singles and went up early breaks on five of six courts however Texas would turn the tide on several of them and ended up taking four first sets.
Texas junior Christian Sigsgaard tied the match at 1-1 with a straight set win over Borna Gojo at No. 1. Sigsgaard went down a break at 1-2 in the opening set however he’d immediately break and then hold on the deciding point for 3-2. A few games later Sigsgaard broke Gojo for 5-3 and then he served out the set from 40/30 to take it 6-3. The second set stayed on serve until Sigsgaard broke Gojo’s 3-3 service game at love and then he consolidated the break with an easy hold for 5-3. Gojo fought off a match point to hold for 4-5 but then Sigsgaard served it out from 40/30 to win 6-3, 6-4.
Texas senior Rodrigo Banzer would put the Horns ahead 2-1 after rallying past Sid Banthia in straight sets at No. 6. Bantha was cruising through the first set up 5-2, and he’d have a pair of set points on Banzer’s serve, however Banzer held on the deciding point and then broke on the deciding point to put it back on serve at 5-4. Banzer held for 5-5, broke for 6-5, and then served out the set from 40/30 to complete the comeback. In the second set, Banzer went up a double break at 3-0 and would eventually go up 5-1. Banzer had three match points on Banthia’s next service game but couldn’t break through and then after going up 40/15 he’d drop the next three points to get broke for 5-3. Banthia held for 4-5 but Banzer would stop the slide and serve it out to win 7-5, 6-4.
Texas senior Colin Markes put the Horns on the brink of the championship after defeating Melios Efstathiou in straight sets at No. 5. Markes dropped his opening service game of the match but he broke back and then broke Efstathiou again to take the first set 6-4. In the second set, Efstathiou jumped out to a 4-2 lead but Markes came back with three straight games to go in front 5-4. Efstathiou fought off a match point to hold for 5-5 but then Markes held comfortably for 6-5. Markes would break from 30/40 to close it out 6-4, 7-5.
Texas senior Leo Telles looked like he’d be the one that would clinch the championship when he led Bar Botzer 6-3, 5-3 at No. 3 however Botzer would take the next three games to go up 6-5. Telles held to force a tiebreak and then he’d take an early 2-0 lead. Botzer won five of the next six points to go up 5-3 but Telles would take the next three to have his first championship point at 6-5. Botzer won the next two to go up 7-6 but Telles followed that up with a pair himself to go up 8-7. Botzer fought off a second match point and then won the next two to take the tiebreak 10-8.
Despite the late surge by Botzer it wasn’t going to be enough for Wake because Texas senior Harrison Scott was running away with the third set at No. 4 while Texas junior Yuya Ito was maintaining his break lead over Petros Chrysochos at No. 2.
Ito dropped the opening set 6-3 and he fell behind 2-0 in the second before reeling off four straight games to take a 4-2 lead. Chrysochos broke for 3-4 but Ito broke back and held to take the set 6-3.
Ito jumped on Chrysochos in the third set with an early break for 2-1 and he’d maintain the break lead the rest of the way. Ito served out the match from 40/30 to defeat the defending NCAA Singles Champion 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
Texas Men’s Tennis (@TexasMTN) May 19, 2019
Texas does it!
NCAA Tennis (@NCAATennis) May 19, 2019
 @TexasMTN win their first national championship in program history, as the Longhorns take down the defending national champions  Wake Forest 4-1.
Yuya Ito clinches the natty with a 3-6 6-3 6-4 win at the #2 spot against Chrysochos. pic.twitter.com/ZmGiAT1jHY
Parsa (@Parsa_Nemati) May 19, 2019
Breaking it down with @TheAndyKatz:@TexasMTN Interim Coach Bruce Berque and clincher Yuya Ito describe their feelings after winning the national title at the @usta #NationalCampus!#NCAATennis pic.twitter.com/Tt3KOJG2mH
NCAA Tennis (@NCAATennis) May 19, 2019
USTA (@usta) May 19, 2019
Texas junior Yuya Ito
On defeating the 2018 singles champion in Petros Chrysochos:
I dont even know how I did it. Hes a really good player, I mean obviously hes won a lot of titles in college and I have a lot of respect for him. Im really happy that I got the win today, I played for the team today and I think it worked out well.
On what changed the match when he was down a set and a break:
All year long, we talked about staying together and not letting go of the rope, not giving up. I just tried to get as many gains as I could, it turned out I did come back and win. All I was thinking was just to compete and stay out there as long as I could.
Texas senior Harrison Scott
On being a senior winning the title:
I think its a definitely a good way to go out. Weve been doing this for four years and working so hard every day. This season was really special, the team really clicked. I mean we couldve had things go the wrong way in the middle of the year, but we all stuck together. Coach Berque did a really good job of keeping us together and keeping us focused and encouraging us. We wanted it so bad, we kept working every day and I think the five seniors knew this was our last shot and we wanted to have no regrets. I think we can now say we have no regrets.
On staying on track after losing their head coach:
Its about leaving that kind of stuff off court. We knew we had a job to do and we all came and played for each other. So, we knew when we got to practice every day, we know we had to practice hard and not let things affect us. A lot of teams thought they could get us down or use that against us, that we wouldnt be there mentally, but I think we really proved a lot of people wrong. We stayed focused and we didnt let that affect us. Im proud of the team sticking to the gameplan and not letting it derail us.
Texas Interim Head Coach Bruce Berque
On the importance of not falling further behind on the scoreboard after the doubles loss:
That was big. Really, it wasnt going that well for us early in singles. We knew we had a chance at No. 1 and No. 2, but we also thought thats where they were the strongest. Those guys throughout the years have probably been the strongest No. 1 and No. 2 in the country. For our guys to beat both of them was amazing. That gave us a huge lift.
But to tie it up at No. 1, but every point counts, its a race to four. Every point we could get was fantastic. Before you knew it, we went from not playing very well in singles and being behind on a lot of courts to me looking up and realizing we were a point or two away from winning this whole thing. It snuck up on us. These guys competed fantastic.
This one over here [Harrison Scott] has played in a lot of matches like that in his career and I reminded him when he was out there that hes played a million matches like this. He was down a set and almost 4-0, and when that match ended he was up 5-0 in third. He did a fantastic job, but he didnt get to finish it. But to put himself in that position, when it looked as desperate as it did, is a real credit to his character and care for the team. Hes been doing it for four years. I couldnt be happier for him or the team.
On stepping into the head coaching role and coming out with a national championship:
I think it feels exactly the same now as it wouldve if I were the assistant coach, which was my previous role, or a head coach at the beginning of the year. When you get to this moment and you’re part of a national championship team and you know you have that with you forever and that youll share this bond with the team forever, that satisfaction and that pride overwhelms everything else. I didnt come from outside the program either. I was there, we were working together for four years. Im not sure whether I stepped in or slid in.
On whether he thought they had to win at No. 1 or No. 2 to have a chance to win:
I thought itd be a huge boost to the team. Somehow, we won both of them. I thought if we could win one of them thatd be fantastic, but to win two of them… I dont know if I was counting on winning both of them. That was a huge lift. I thought we had a really good shot at the doubles but it didnt go my way, I thought we were really strong at the bottom of the lineup but if we could get something happening at No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3, it would be a big lift to us.
On the concern of losing the doubles point:
Thats not a strong point for [Wake Forest]. We played Yuya [Ito] and Chih Chi [Huang] and they did a fantastic job. As a freshman, Chih Chi won. The last two days they did amazing. The No. 1 team is really tough to play; those guys are so powerful that its kind of a crap shoot. We didnt probably play our best as a team in doubles but they played very well [Wake Forest.] We thought that was a point we had a good chance to win but I always tell these guys that we are going to fight as hard as we can for that 14 percent of the match. Were going to act like its the most important thing in the world and when its over, win or lose, were going to pretend it doesnt matter much because its only 14 percent. Thats the approach weve had.
Weve beaten other good teams this year after losing the doubles point, so I dont think there was a sense of panic from anybody. We thought we had a good shot at that but I watched these guys and I watched Wake Forest and knew they were as great team. But I had so much confidence in these guys that I thought if we competed well in every spot wed have a chance to win anyway.
On what point he thought they were going to win:
I was running around with Colin [Markes], he was kind of hanging on and I was trying to keep him composed in the moment too. I looked around and looked up at Leos [Leonardo Telles] score and Yuya [Ito] was up a break in the third. And I looked up and said to one of our guys who was watching that we were only two points away from winning. I honestly had no idea we were that close to winning until we were literally two points away. I dont know how many dual match points it took to win, it was probably the fourth one… fourth times the charm.
Wake Forest Head Coach Tony Bresky
On what made the difference in the match:
First off, congrats to Texas, they played a great match. They showed a lot of toughness and heart after losing the doubles point. It couldve easily fazed them that we won the doubles point, so that was a nice surprise. I honestly just think we died physically today. I think yesterday probably caught up to us a little bit. We really could have used some rain or a thunderstorm or a delay, just to postpone a little bit. We got off some good starts, we were up breaks, just didnt finish off a couple of the sets. As the match got physical, they shined. They were prepared and they were tough. I dont think it was that we werent tough. Yesterday was a tough match and the conditions were tough and it really got to us. Credit to Texas for taking advantage of that.
On whether Texas was more used to the hot condition,s being a southern school:
Maybe a tiny bit. Weve been here a while now. I just think playing a little later yesterday, just the emotion of that match, the last match on… couple of guys just a little sick and fought through it yesterday. Rrezart [Cungu] was fine, his guy [Harrison Scott] was just playing great at No. 3. I think that Bar [Botzer], Petros [Chrysochos] and Melios [Efstathiou] really felt the heat. Sure, thats all a part of it, getting used to playing in those condition and they play in them a lot. Its just part of the NCAA team event; youve got to deal with it. It takes a while, youve got to deal with adversity and deal with the situations and conditions. If it rained, we wouldve had to play indoors, which may have favored us, or if it was windy or cold. Youve just got to deal with it. One team ends up dealing with it better and thats what they did today.
On whether defending the title created more pressure:
No. The guys were excited, they were anxious to go, they were looking forward to competing. Obviously, we played one of our better doubles points. Like I said, Borna [Gojo] was up there, Petros two breaks, Rrezart two breaks, Melios got a break, Siddhant [Banthia] for the first set.
You know really, we couldve gotten five first sets. If we get three of those or four of those, its a totally different match. We give so much credit to Texas because Bornas guy [Christian Sigsgaard] came back, even Petros guy [Yuya Ito] didnt win the first set but came back and made it closer so it made it more physical. Melios guy [Colin Markes] right away broke back and Siddhants guy [Rodrigo Banzer], I mean Sid was on 5-2 in that set and had set points, and his guy just won all the big points and that just changes the match. It puts a little scoreboard pressure on you, guys are kind of looking around. They have a ton of experience, ton of seniors; they handled the moment fantastic.
On the physical toll the match was taking on the team:
When Chris [Eaton, assistant coach] and I changed spots, things werent going great on a few of the spots. Even going to Melios, even early in the second set, his guy looked fresh and he looked like he was struggling a bit. I knew even if he wouldve pulled out that second set it wouldve been tough. I could sense it with Borna, once he gave away that first break, it was going to be tough. I think from our standpoint, if were going to win the doubles and then youre going to beat us at No. 1 or No. 2, all the credit in the world to you. The odds of that happening are very slim. Texas earned it, they earned the title today. Love my guys, theyre absolute warriors. What a year for us to be able to come back and compete for the national title. I think we didnt obviously accomplish quite what we wanted to, the boys left it all out there.
On whether there was another match where both No. 1 and No. 2 singles lost:
While we were healthy with Borna and Petros, no I dont think we lost another match at No. 1 and No. 2. In outdoor tennis, we hadnt had a 4-3 match yet with a full lineup until yesterday. Yesterday was our first 4-3 in outdoor tennis [in semifinals against UNC] when we had a full, healthy lineup. We were confident in the conditions, we were confident in how we played, we were ready to go. We started the match but then started to slip away a little bit.
On what was going well for the team in the beginning
I think its different on every court and thats the beauty of dual matches. Therere six different matches. Borna got off to a good start, I had a bad feeling there once he got broken back, he played a really sloppy game. I think it was up 4-2 or 3-2 whenever he broke for the guy to get back in there. Petros got off to an amazing start. I really think that the 4-0 game where he got broken at deuce is huge. If he gets that, hes going to have a lot of juice left for the next two sets.
I think Rrezart, the killer for him, he was set up, and 3-0, 40-love on his own serve. Absolute killer to lose that game. Credit to Harrison [Scott] for winning that game, and hanging in there. I think if Rrezart wouldve gotten that game it might have changed the momentum of the entire match. Same with Sid, I think he had either deuce or 30-40 at 5-2. If he gets that, its a routine set and hes feeling good. I think he had deuce again at 5-3. I think he lost four deuce points in a row, and that obviously changed it. Again, give Texas credit. Their guys did a great job of not panicking and continued to fight and play good tennis and put the pressure on us.
#2 Texas 4, #4 Wake Forest 1
May 19, 2019 at Orlando, Fla. (USTA National Campus)
1. #7 Christian Sigsgaard (UT) def. #11 Borna Gojo (WF) 6-3, 6-4
2. #12 Yuya Ito (UT) def. #8 Petros Chrysochos (WF) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
3. #80 Leonardo Telles (UT) vs. #50 Bar Botzer (WF) 6-3, 6-7 (8-10), 1-0* (30/0), unfinished
4. #55 Harrison Scott (UT) vs. Rrezart Cungu (WF) 2-6, 7-6 (8-6), *5-0, unfinished
5. Colin Markes (UT) def. Melios Efstathiou (WF) 6-4, 7-5
6. Rodrigo Banzer (UT) def. Siddhant Banthia (WF) 7-5, 6-4
1. #63 Alan Gadjiev/Borna Gojo (WF) def. #5 Harrison Scott/Christian Sigsgaard (UT) 6-4
2. #55 Bar Botzer/Petros Chrysochos (WF) def. Colin Markes/Leonardo Telles (UT) 6-3
3. Chih Chi Huang/Yuya Ito (UT) def. Siddhant Banthia/Julian Zlobinsky (WF) 6-2
Wake Forest 34-4; National ranking #4
Texas 29-3; National ranking #2
Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (1,6,5,2)
1) Oliver Crawford (FLORIDA)
2) Yuya Ito (TEXAS)*
3) Bar Botzer- Wake Forest
4) Brian Cernoch- UNC
5) Andy Andrade- Florida
6) Rodrigo Banzer- Texas
1) Borno Gojo / Alan Gadjiev (WAKE FOREST)
2) Brian Cernoch/Benjamin Sigouin (NORTH CAROLINA)
3) Chih Chi Huang / Yuya Ito (TEXAS)
Most Outstanding Player:
Yuya Ito (TEXAS)