Tuesday, 23 May 2017 20:32

Virginia Wins Third Straight National Title With 4-2 Win Over North Carolina

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After a week that's been filled with weather issues it was fitting to have the men's final play indoors after a morning and afternoon full of rain. The match was originally scheduled to start at 1 p.m. but with storms set to clear out shortly after 4 p.m. the decision was made to delay the match to see if it could be played outdoors. Unfortunately the rain hadn't stopped by 3 p.m. so therefore due to the TV commitment to ESPNU the match had to proceed indoors with a 4 p.m. start. I was told that if they didn't begin by 4 p.m. they'd lose one of the two time windows which would have meant the women's final wouldn't have made it on the air.  

As I mentioned earlier in the week, Georgia's four-court indoor facility is not the ideal place to play a match because aside from the obvious that you can only play four matches at once there also wasn't much air circulation inside so it got awfully humid with all the people packed in. The other negative was the live scoring only did game scoring and not point-by-point so unless you were keeping track of the score yourself it was hard to know where things stood since you couldn't hear the chair umpire over all the noise. Once capacity was reached they stopped letting people in, similar to last year in Tulsa, so that left a sour taste in some people's mouths who traveled to Athens to see the event. 


UVA Mens National Champions 1580

Photo by Bill Kallenberg (CapturedInAction.com)

The crowd inside the LIndsey Hopkins Tennis Center was about 70/30 in favor of North Carolina with the Tar Heels seeking their first-ever NCAA Championship while Virginia was seeking its third in a row. 

The doubles point was a point that both teams wanted and for a while it looked like North Carolina might pull it out. The matches at both No. 1 and No. 3 doubles were pretty lopsided with North Carolina's William Blumberg and Robert Kelly winning 6-2 at No. 1 while Virginia's Collin Altamirano and JC Aragone won 6-1 at No. 3. 

The match at No. 2 was a good one with no breaks of serve although each team had its chances. North Carolina's best chance to break came when Thai-Son Kwiatkowski was serving 3-3 (30/40). Kwiatkowski hit a crosscourt backhand winner past a charging Simon Soendergaard which brought up the no-ad point and then Kwiatkowski hit a service winner to hold for 4-3. Virginia's best chance to break came when Soendergaard was serving at 4-5 (15/40). Soendergaard hit an ace to make it 30/40 and then Jack Murray hit a volley winner to bring up the no-ad point. On the no-ad point Kwiatkowski drilled one at Murray but he was able to hit a reflex volley for a winner which evened it at 5-5. UVA's Alexander Ritschard held from 40/15 to make it 6-5 then Jack Murray held from 40/15 to send it to a tiebreak. 

UNC went up a mini-break to start the tiebreak after Soendergaard hit a forehand winner down the middle but UVA got it back when Kwiatkowski hit a service return winner. UNC went up 3-1 after a Ritschard double fault but UVA took the next two to tie at 3-3. UNC won the best point of the tiebreak, which had Murray and Soendergaard turn into brick walls at the net, to go up 4-3 but UVA evened it at 4-4 on the next point. UNC went up another mini-break at 5-4 after Ritschard netted a volley but UVA took it back on the next point when Soendergaard wasn't able to make a clean pickup of Kwiatkowski's service return. UVA took its first lead of the tiebreak at 6-5 after Murray misplayed a floater at the net and then the Cavs closed it out 7-5 after Murray was unable to reach a Kwiatkowski volley. 

Below are some doubles highlights that I shot with the tiebreak starting at the seven minute mark. 



It seemed like all the air got let out of the building after Virginia won the doubles point because it was already going to be hard enough for UNC to win three singles matches and now they needed to win four. 

The first four singles matches went on court, with No. 5 and No. 6 in a holding pattern, and within the first couple of games there would be breaks everywhere.  

Virginia senior Alexander Ritschard took the opening set over North Carolina senior Ronnie Schneider 6-1 and then he broke for 3-2 in the second. Schneider broke back on the no-ad point, via a Ritschard double fault, but Ritschard would break back to go up 4-3. Ritschard held for 5-3 and then he broke Schneider for a fifth time to close it out 6-1, 6-3. 

Virginia's lead was now 2-0 but in less than 60 seconds it'd be trimmed to 2-1 after North Carolina freshman William Blumberg defeated Virginia senior Thai-Son Kwiatkowski in straight sets at No. 2. Blumberg broke Kwiatkowski to go up 3-1 in the first and he'd take the opening set 6-3. In the second set, Blumberg broke Kwiatkowski for 2-1 and then during the changeover Kwiatkowski had the trainer come out and wrap some (or one) of his fingers. After Blumberg held for 3-1, he'd break for 4-1 and a few games later he'd close it out 6-3, 6-2

Six minutes later Virginia junior Collin Altamirano would push the lead back to two with a straight set win over North Carolina freshman Simon Soendergaard at No. 4. Altamirano broke for 2-1 in the first and then two games later he'd break for 4-1. Soendergaard broke back on the no-ad point for 2-4 and then he held for 3-4. During the changeover, Soendergaard called the trainer to take a look at his stomach and from that point forward he'd only win one more game with Altamirano taking it 6-3, 6-1

Before the matches at No. 5 and No. 6 singles could get started North Carolina junior Robert Kelly would close out Virginia freshman Carl Soderlund in straight sets at No. 3. Kelly jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first but Soderlund would hold and break to make it 4-2. Kelly broke back for 5-2 and then he held on the no-ad point to take the set 6-2. Soderlund got off to the quick start in the second set and went up 3-0 but Kelly held, broke, and held to even it at 3-3. After an exchange of holds, Kelly broke for 5-4 and then he served it out to win 6-2, 6-4

The other two singles matches had just got underway so everyone knew it was going to be at least another hour before a champion was crowned. 

North Carolina senior Jack Murray would strike first at No. 5 by breaking Virginia senior JC Aragone for 3-2, via a double fault, and then he'd hold for 4-2. Aragone took the next three games by holding, breaking after the chair overruled Murray's out call of an Aragone crosscourt backhand winner, and then holding again. The set would end up going to a tiebreak and after going in from 6-0, Aragone would take it 7-2. 

Meanwhile at No. 6, Virginia junior Henrik Wiersholm went up a break at 3-2 and he'd add another for 5-2 after Boyden double faulted on the no-ad point. Boyden broke back for 3-5 and held for 4-5 but then Wiersholm would serve out the set at love to take it 6-4. 

Both Murray and Boyden kept fighting in the second set but Aragone and Wiersholm were both starting to pull away. 

Aragone broke Murray to start the second set and then held for 2-0 while Wiersholm broke Boyden for 2-1 and then held for 3-1. Aragone broke again for 4-1 but Murray got one of the breaks back to pull within 4-2. Aragone broke back again for 5-2 and then after falling behind 15/30 he came back to clinch the championship from 40/30 to give Virginia its third straight NCAA Championship.

Below are match points from a few different angles, highlights from Virginia, highlights that I shot behind court 3, and below that is the trophy presentation. 








#2 VIRGINIA (34-1) 4, #9 NORTH CAROLINA (29-5) 2
Head Coaches: Brian Boland (Virginia) and Sam Paul (North Carolina)
1. #12 William Blumberg/ Robert Kelly (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #17 Luca Corinteli/Carl Söderlund (VIRGINIA), 6-2
2.Thai-Son Kwiatkowski/Alexander Ritschard (VIRGINIA) def. #82 Jack Murray/Simon Soendergaard (NORTH CAROLINA), 7-6 (5)
3.Collin Altamirano/J.C. Aragone (VIRGINIA) def. Anu Kodali/ Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-1
1. #91 Alexander Ritschard (VIRGINIA) def. #22 Ronnie Schneider (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-1, 6-3
2. #16 William Blumberg (NORTH CAROLINA) def. #14 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (VIRGINIA), 6-3, 6-2
3. #16 Robert Kelly (NORTH CAROLINA) def. Carl Söderlund (VIRGINIA), 6-2, 6-4
4. #40 Collin Altamirano (VIRGINIA) def. Simon Soendergaard (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-3, 6-1
5. #109 J.C. Aragone (VIRGINIA) def. Jack Murray (NORTH CAROLINA), 7-6(2), 6-2
6. #102 Henrik Wiersholm (VIRGINIA) vs. Bo Boyden (NORTH CAROLINA), 6-4, 4-2, unf.
Doubles (3,1,2) Singles (1,2,4,3,5)





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