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Florida junior Sam Riffice captured the NCAA Men’s Singles Championship on Friday afternoon with a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over South Carolina’s Daniel Rodrigues.

Riffice got off to a slow start and fell behind 5-0 in the first set but then he won three in a row to pull within 5-3. Rodrigues was able to serve out the first set but Riffice’s comeback was just getting started.

Riffice dominated the second set winning the first three games then after a Rodrigues hold he won the next three to force a third set.

Riffice jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the final set and then got a crucial hold on the deciding point to make it 4-2. Rodrigues fought back to even it at 4-4 but Riffice broke and then served it out to win the title.

Riffice becomes Florida’s third NCAA Men’s Singles Champion and first since Jeff Morrison won the title in 1999. Riffice also becomes the ninth player since the year 2000 to win a team championship and singles championship in the same season. The feat had previously been achieved by Stanford’s Alex Kim (2000), Georgia’s Matias Boeker (2001), Illinois’s Amer Delic (2003), Baylor’s Benjamin Becker (2004), USC’s Steve Johnson (2011/2012), Virginia’s Ryan Shane (2015) and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (2017), and Wake Forest’s Petros Chrysochos (2018).

What made the win that much more impressive was the fact that Riffice was playing his ninth singles match in the last nine days. All said and done Riffice spent 16 hours and 3 minutes on court playing those nine matches and ended up defeating the ITA #1 Draxl, #2 Rodrigues, #3 Habib, #5 Vacherot, #11 Soto, #46 Martin, #84 Ponwith, and #124 Montsi.

Another interesting note about Riffice winning the title was the fact that he didn’t play a single match at No. 1 singles during the dual-match season. Riffice started all but two matches at No. 2 and those other two came at No. 3. I asked the question on Twitter and the 1974 singles champ Stanford’s John Whitlinger said he didn’t play at No. 1 during the season and it’s possible that Stanford’s Jared Palmer may not have played any at No. 1 during the year he won the title in 1991. There isn’t a lot of historical information going that far back but I think we can say comfortably that it hadn’t happened on the men’s side in at least 30 years.

Riffice is the first American to win the title since Virginia’s Thai-Son Kwiatkowski in 2017 and as a result should get a main draw wild card into this year’s US Open. In the post-match interview down below Riffice talks about that potential wild card and what is plans are for the summer and going forward.

Riffice finishes the season with a 32-7 singles record which included a 21-4 record in dual-match play. Rodrigues finished the year with a 31-8 record including 18-5 in dual-match play.

Below I have some notes from each match along with the post-match press conferences (videos are courtesy of the NCAA/USTA).

  • [6] Sam Riffice (13.66), Florida def. [2] Daniel Rodrigues (13.80), South Carolina 3-6, 6-1, 6-4
    • Match Time: 2 hours 9 minutes
    • First Set – Rodrigues jumped out to a 5-0* lead before Riffice held, broke, and held on the deciding point for 3-5* Rodrigues served out the set from 40/15
    • Second Set – Riffice went ahead 3-0* then Rodrigues held on the deciding point for 1-3; Riffice held, broke at love, and then held on the deciding point to take the set
    • Third Set: Rodrigues held at love to start the set then Riffice fought off a break point to hold on the deciding point for 1-1; Riffice broke for 2-1 after Rodrigues double faulted on the deciding point then Riffice held from 40/15 for 3-1; Rodrigues held at love for 2-3 then Riffice held on the deciding point for 4-2 after Rodrigues netted a a service return; Rodrigues held at love for 3-4 then he broke Riffice from 15/40 to even it at 4-4; Riffice broke back from 30/40 to go ahead 5-4 (when Rodrigues was down 0/30 he was given a time violation point penalty which made the score 0/40); Riffice served it out from 40/15 to win the title
    • Deciding Points: 6 – Riffice won 5
    • Best Prior Results for Florida at NCAAs: Jeff Morrison (1999 Champ); Mark Merklein (1994 Champ)

Path to the Championship

  • [6] Sam Riffice (13.70), Florida
    • def.  Nathan Ponwith (13.30), Arizona State, 1-6, 7-5, 6-2 in R1 (2:14)
    • def. Andres Martin (13.15), Georgia Tech 2-6, 6-2, 6-0 (1:43)
    • def. Siphosothando Montsi (13.36), Illinois 6-2, 6-0 in R16 (1:06)
    • def. [4] Valentin Vacherot (13.67), Texas A&M 6-3, 6-0 in QF (1:08)
    • def. [1] Liam Draxl (13.77), Kentucky 7-6(5), 2-6, 6-1 in SF (2:13)
    • def. [2] Daniel Rodrigues (13.80), South Carolina 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 in F (2:09)
    • Time on Court: 10 hours 33 minutes
      • Plus Riffice played on the 3 days preceding the start of the singles championship
        • def. Matias Soto (13.67), Baylor, 7-5, 6-3 in team final (1:34)
        • vs. Micah Braswell (13.48), Texas, 6-7(3), 2-3, unfinished in team semifinal (1:53)
        • def. Hady Habib (13.61), Texas A&M, 7-6(5), 6-4 in team quarterfinal (2:03)
    • Time on Court in Last 9 Days (Including Team QF/SF/F): 16 hours 3 minutes

In the women’s singles final it was Virginia’s Emma Navarro knocking out the defending NCAA Women’s Singles Champion Miami’s Estela Perez-Somarriba 6-3, 6-1.

Navarro fell behind 2-0 in the opening set but quickly retook the lead at 3-2. After an exchange of holds, Navarro broke Perez-Somarriba then served out the set from 40/30. In the second set, Navarro broke Perez-Somarriba four times including a break from 30/40 to close out the match.

Navarro becomes Virginia’s third NCAA Women’s Singles Champion joining Danielle Collins who won the title twice. Navarro also becomes the first freshman to win the title since Duke’s Mallory Cecil won it in 2009.

As with Riffice, Navarro should be in line for a main draw US Open wild card after becoming the first American to win the title since Michigan’s Brienne Minor in 2017. The only time an American NCAA Singles Champion didn’t receive a main draw wild card was in 2008 when Georgia Tech’s Amanda McDowell was instead giving a wild card into the qualifying draw.

Navarro finished the year with a 25-1 singles record while Perez-Somarriba finished with a 24-3 record.

In the video down below Navarro talks about winning the title and if she plans to turn pro or not.

  • [3] Emma Navarro, Virginia 11.35 def. [2] Estela Perez-Somarriba, Miami (FL) 11.08 6-3, 6-1
    • Match Time 1 hours 16 minutes
    • First Set – Perez-Somarriba jumped out to a 2-0 lead after breaking Navarro from 15/40 and holding on the deciding point; Navarro won the next 3 games before Perez-Somarriba held for 3-3; Navarro held for 4-3 then broke Perez-Somarriba from 15/40 to go ahead 5-3; Navarro served it out from 40/30 to take the set
    • Second Set – 3 straight breaks to start the set with Navarro breaking from 15/40 twice while Perez-Somarriba broke on the deciding point; Navarro held from 40/15 for 3-1 then broke on the deciding point for 4-1; Navarro held at love for 5-1 then she broke Perez-Somarriba from 30/40 to close it out
    • Deciding Points: 3 – Perez-Somarriba won 2
    • Best Results for UVA at NCAAs: Danielle Collins (2016 & 2014 Champ)

Path to the Championship

  • [3] Emma Navarro (11.35), Virginia
    • def. Haley Giavara (10.40), California, 7-6(3), 6-2 in R1 (1:20)
    • def. Ilze Hattingh (10.29), Arizona State, 1-6, 7-5, 6-0 in R2 (2:06)
    • def. Meg Kowalski (10.76), Georgia 6-1, 6-1 in R16 (1:16)
    • def. Paris Corley (10.68), LSU 6-2, 6-1 in QF (1:03)
    • def. [1] Sara Daavettila (10.95), North Carolina 6-4, 2-6, 6-2 in SF (2:30)
    • def. [2] Estela Perez-Somarriba (11.08), Miami (FL) 6-3, 6-1 in F (1:16)
    • Time on Court: 9 hours 31 minutes