Tuesday, 22 May 2018 04:09

NCAA Men's Final Four Recap: Wake Forest Takes Out Texas A&M & Ohio State Ousts UCLA

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If you are a fan of college tennis and didn't enjoy the two men's semifinal matches that were played on Monday evening then you need to go see a doctor. Both matches had it all, from the multiple weather delays due to lightning and rain, to the back and forth swings that came with each time they restarted play, and wow how about that doubles point in the Ohio State/UCLA match. It was an unbelievable night that kept me up past 2 a.m. here in London but it was worth every second. 

So let's start out with the match on lower courts between No. 2 UCLA and No. 3 Ohio State. The Bruins served first to start the matches at No. 1 and No. 2 but quickly went down a break on No. 1 and trailed 3-1. UCLA's Martin Redlicki and Evan Zhu would trail 4-2 at No. 1 but Redlicki would hold on the deciding point for 3-4, they'd break JJ Wolf for 4-4, and then Zhu held on the deciding point for 5-4. Ohio State's Martin Joyce held for 5-5, Redlicki held for 6-5, and then Redlicki and Zhu broke Wolf again to win it 7-5. 

Next door at No. 2 dubs, UCLA's Austin Rapp and Keegan Smith opened up a 4-1 lead over John McNally and Mikael Torpegaard. McNally and Torpegaard took the next three to tie it at 4-4 and then they had a pair of break points on Smith's serve but Smith managed to hold for 5-4. After three more holds the match would head to a tiebreak. 

On the other court at No. 3, UCLA's Maxime Cressy and Bryce Pereira broke on the deciding point for 3-2 and they'd eventually extend the lead to 5-3. Cressy and Pereira had a match point when Ohio State served at 3-5, but Matt Mendez and Hunter Tubert fought it off to hold for 4-5. Cressy then had a pair of match points at 40/30 but Mendez and Tubert broke on the deciding point to even it at 5-5. Cressy and Pereira would break back to go up 6-5 but once again they'd be unable to serve it out with Mendez and Tubert breaking back to force a tiebreak. 

So both No. 2 and No. 3 doubles were going to a tiebreak at roughly the same time with Ohio State needed both courts while UCLA just needed one. Ohio State's McNally and Torpegaard jumped out to a 4-2 at No. 2 and they'd go on to close it out 7-4. 


Over at No. 3, Ohio State's Mendez and Tubert would break a 3-3 tie and win the final four points to take it 7-3. 


Ohio State had taken the doubles point for the 34th time in 36 matches and they quickly carried over the momentum from the exciting finish to singles where they'd jump out to early break leads on three different courts. 

Unfortunately for Ohio State and fortunately for UCLA about 15 minutes later the match would be halted due to a lightning streak and play wouldn't resume again for close to three hours.


When played fired back up there really weren't any major shifts in any of the matches and each team would go on to take three opening sets. The action continued for almost 45 minutes until play was stopped yet again due to a nearby lightning streak. At the time of the delay the match at No. 1 had just split sets, UCLA's Logan Staggs was en route to a split at No. 4, while everything else was on serve in the second set. 


After a 50 minute delay, UCLA came out firing on all cylinders and quickly picked up breaks at No. 2, No. 3, No. 5, and No. 6. UCLA freshman Connor Hance would win for the 9th time in his last 11 matches to put the Bruins on the scoreboard with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Hunter Tubert at No. 6. Tubert had jumped out to a 3-1 lead to start the match but Hance got it back to 3-3 before the first delay and would add another on Tubert's 5-6 service game to close out the opening set. 

It looked like UCLA senior Martin Redlicki would put the Bruins in front because the big lefty led 4-1 in the third set against Ohio State senior Mikael Torpegaard. However Torpegaard would hold for 2-4, break back for 3-4, come back from 15/40 down to hold for 4-4, and then break on the deciding point to go up 5-4. Torpegaard then served it out at love to win it 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 and Ohio State was back in front 2-1. 


Approximately seven minutes later, Ohio State sophomore Kyle Seelig would put the Buckeyes in front 3-1 after defeating Logan Staggs 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 at No. 4. Staggs actually went up a break to start the third set but Seelig broke back and then added another break go up 4-2. After Seelig held for 5-2, he had a pair of match points but Staggs fought them off to hold for 3-5. Seelig then served it out from 40/15 to win it.

The three remaining matches were all into a third set with UCLA sophomore Evan Zhu up an early break at No. 2, Ohio State freshman John McNally up an early break at No. 3, while Ohio State junior Martin Joyce was receiving serve up 5-4 in the third against Maxime Cressy. 

Joyce had led 4-1 earlier in the set but Cressy held, broke, and held to even it at 4-4. After Joyce held for 5-4, he went up 0/30 on Cressy's serve and then had a pair of match points at 30/40 after a Cressy double fault. Joyce would close it out on the next point to put Ohio State back in the finals for only the second time in school history with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win.  

The other matches went unfinished with UCLA's Evan Zhu up 4-1 in the third at No. 2 while Ohio State's John McNally led 2-0 in the third at No. 3. 


Post-Match Quotes

Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker:
Opening Statement
I haven’t been in a match like that with so much on the line where there were two rain delays, weather delays, and a match started at 2 o’clock and ended at nine o’clock. I’m proud of my guys for keeping in there, keeping the fight going, fighting off the adversity. It’s a great team win for the Buckeyes. We look forward to trying to get healthy and getting ready to play the hometown favorite tomorrow.

On playing for the national championship
It’s what every boy, girl in the country who gets into athletics dreams about. If you’re good enough to make it to college athletics, you dream about holding the big trophy at the end of the season, being the last team season. I say we don’t talk about it but we talk about Big 10 titles and chasing the NCAA title. That’s why I get up 48 weekends a year, Saturdays and Sunday, put in the time. That’s why these guys put in the time. That’s why they compete like they compete. It’s an opportunity to live forever at Ohio State, an opportunity to live forever in college tennis. It means the world to us. It’s what we spend 365 days a year doing.

Mikael Torpegaard, senior, No. 1 singles
On the rain delay
“It’s been an incredibly tough day. I thought, like Ty said, the team handled the rain delays incredibly well. We’re not used to stopping a match, on and off. People see the matches but they don’t see the preparation that goes into warm-up every time we start. After a rain delay, you warm up, you hit, you spend a lot of time on the court. It’s exhausting mentally and physically. Incredible job by the whole team to be able to go out there and do what we did today.”

UCLA Head Coach Billy Martin
Opening Statement:
“We gave away a bunch of opportunities that we couldn’t afford to against a great team like Ohio State. Certainly the doubles point. At No. 3 doubles, I believe we had two match points on our serve at 5-4. We served for it again at 6-5. That cost us the doubles point. Unfortunately for Martin (Redlicki), he had a 4-1 lead in the third set against a great player (Mikael Torpegaard). You’re not always going to win those, but he’s such an outstanding college player, you would think 99 out of 100 times, he’s probably going to serve it out at 4-1 up in the third set. Those two opportunities missed really, really hurt us.”

“We got one singles match and it looked like we were pretty good at No. 2 and were up 4-1 at No. 3. We had our chances and we didn’t take advantage of them and today, the better team won in Ohio State.”

On the rain delay:
“I think It actually helped us, quite honestly. I think we were down and shocked after losing the doubles point. I think we felt like we were going to win it. It’s always a tough transition after you lose that doubles point. You’ve got five to eight minutes to put it out of your mind and it’s not easy to do. I felt our team was a little down to start singles. I think the rain delay gave us a little time to get off the court and regenerate and focus. It gave me a little time to talk to them and get them in a better mind frame. I thought we came out much better after the rain delay. It was probably to our advantage.” 

#3 Ohio State 4, #2 UCLA 1
5/21/2018 at Winston-Salem, N.C. Wake Forest Lower Courts
Singles competition
1. #6 Mikael Torpegaard (OSU) def. #1 Martin Redlicki (UCLA) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
2. #81 Evan Zhu (UCLA) vs. #41 JJ Wolf (OSU) 5-7, 6-4, 4-1, unfinished
3. #56 Keegan Smith (UCLA) vs. #92 John McNally (OSU) 7-6 (7-5), 4-6, 0-2, unfinished
4. #96 Kyle Seelig (OSU) def. #103 Logan Staggs (UCLA) 6-3, 3-6, 6-3
5. #112 Martin Joyce (OSU) def. Maxime Cressy (UCLA) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4
6. Connor Hance (UCLA) def. Hunter Tubert (OSU) 7-5, 6-3
Doubles competition
1. #29 Martin Redlicki/Evan Zhu (UCLA) def. Martin Joyce/JJ Wolf (OSU) 7-5
2. #61 John McNally/Mikael Torpegaard (OSU) def. #16 Austin Rapp/Keegan Smith (UCLA) 7-6 (7-4)
3. Matt Mendez/Hunter Tubert (OSU) def. Maxime Cressy/Bryce Pereira (UCLA) 7-6 (7-3)
Match Notes
Ohio State 34-2; National ranking #3
UCLA 30-3; National ranking #2
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (6,1,4,5)
2018 NCAA Semifinals of NCAA Championships
Two Weather delays, the first lasting for roughly 3 hours and the second for 50m



The other semifinal match taking place on the Leighton Family Courts didn't look like it'd be a close one, after Wake Forest jumped out to a big lead, but Texas A&M hung around and made the home crowd sweat it out. The top seeded Demon Deacons won the doubles point for the 25th time in 32 matches after rolling to a 6-0 win at No. 1 and a 6-3 win at No. 2. 


Wake kept the pedal to the medal in singles and picked up quick first sets at No. 1 and No. 2 while also picking up a 6-4 set at No. 3. With the other matches still in the first set, play would be stopped due to the aforementioned weather delay and wouldn't restart for another three hours.


After play resumed both sophomore Borna Gojo and junior Petros Chrysochos picked up where they left off and rolled to 6-2, 6-1 wins to give Wake Forest a 3-0 lead. Texas A&M sophomore Valentin Vacherot also picked up where he left off and pulled away from Bar Botzer to put the Aggies on the board with a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 4. 


By the time the second delay came, Texas A&M senior Jordi Arconada had gone ahead of Skander Mansouri 2-1 in the third at No. 3 plus Arconada had three break points to make it 3-1. After play resume Arconada broke and held for 4-1 but Mansouri charged back to tie it at 4-4. After three more holds, Arconada would break Mansouri to close it out 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 and now the score stood at 3-2. 

Texas A&M freshman Juan Carlos Aguilar would tie the match at 3-3 after he finished off Wake's Alan Gadjiev 7-6, 6-3 at No. 5. Gadjiev led 4-1* in the first set but Aguilar took the next three before taking it in a tiebreak. 

The match was all square at 3-3 however Wake senior Christian Seraphim had already opened up a 3-0 lead in the third set against Texas A&M freshman Barnaby Smith. A&M had played AJ Catanzariti in three of the previous four matches but after a loss against Florida they decided to go with Smith who had started at No. 6 most of the year. Seraphim would go on to close out the match with a third set bagel and Wake Forest was headed to the championship match for the first time in school history. 


Post-Match Quotes 

Wake Forest Head Coach Tony Bresky
Opening Statement...
“That was a great match. We’re excited to get through. We’re excited to play again tomorrow. I have to give credit to Texas A&M, they never stopped fighting. They showed a lot of heart. It’s too bad somebody had to lose because they left it all out there. We’re very grateful and fortunate and happy that we’re going to have a chance to play again tomorrow.”

On Christian Seraphim clinching the match...
“It’s fitting. All of the guys work so hard and they deserve this. Christian Seraphim has been with me for four-and-a-half years, the longest of anyone. He’s made a lot of sacrafices to be here and to be a part of this and to be playing the way he is. He deserves it. You can see that in the way that he played at the end; he played fearless. He was confident, in the moment and he didn’t overthink it. I think that is who he is as a person. He certainly loves that moment.”

On the weather delay...
“We got off to a great start. We were rolling in singles. I was hoping for another 45-minutes to an hour. I’m not saying Texas A&M wasn’t going to stop fighting or go away but it really felt good. I think our guys handled the delay well. Texas A&M obviously needed it and they handled it great. They came back. We were able to finish them off on a couple of courts pretty quickly but the other guys against them were really battling. A couple were able to turn their matches and extended the match. I give them credit for doing that. We talk about adversity a lot and facing different challenges all the time. We’ve faced so many challenges in this tournament. Our first weekend was in 95 degree heat, something we hadn’t experienced yet. It was crazy hot. Then we had to play a Columbia team that plays predominataely indoors. That was a challenge. Obviously today, with two rain delays, was a challenge. That’s something we delt with at NCAAs last year as well. It’s a part of trying to win a tournament like this. Our guys are doing a great job with it; no excuses, no whining, no complaining, just getting right back at it.”

Christian Seraphim
On today’s win...
“It was definitely an unbelievable experience. Our crowd is so amazing and it is so much fun playing out there. I don’t know how many people were out there but it felt like a lot. My family was here too and having everyone be able to see me finish it was an incredible moment for me and definitely something I will always remember.”

On playing in front of the crowd...
“It was an amazing atmosphere. I embraced it and i focused on every point. I tried to win every point and it was just a lot of fun being out there. I cherish those moments. I have one more chance tomorrow to have a similar atmosphere but it’s coming to an end. Its really amazing to have this experience.

Texas A&M Head Coach Steve Denton
Opening Statement:
“Tennis is a hidden jewel. A lot of people don’t know how exciting the matches are, on both sides. Everybody lays it out on the line and somebody has to lose. Unfortunately for us, Wake Forest was just a little too good today. I’m really proud of our guys and as far as I’m concerned, college tennis is the winner when we have matches like this.

On the rain delay:
“We needed some divine intervention. We were on our heels. They were beating us pretty good on some courts. It allowed some guys to settle a little bit and we were able to talk to them. We got ourselves back in the match. It was very similar to what happened to us yesterday with Florida. We put ourselves in a position by winning some second sets to extend the match and put some pressure back on. We were creating some doubt for them. That’s what you want to do. Unfortunately, we couldn’t quite get on a hump. I’m proud of our guys and it’s been a great season.”

On the deciding match at No. 6:
“When you have a fifth-year senior (Christian Seraphim) against a freshman, you’re in a difficult spot. He’s been a great player for Wake Forest for a long time. He’s been in a lot of matches and has a lot of experience. We didn’t win any key points early in the third set. I think we lost that match in the first set. We had chances in the tiebreaker and we had chances before the tiebreaker.”

On the Wake Forest crowd:
“It was a new experience for our guys. It is the first time in Texas A&M history that we’ve been on this stage and it’s tougher when you’re facing a home crowd. Our guys have been battle-tested this year. I think we had the second toughest schedule in the country. We played a lot of tough matches. We were prepared for it. In fact, we relished in the atmosphere. It’s a lot of fun playing in front of a crowd like that. I think it raised the level of our players. We enjoyed every minute of it.”

Texas A&M player Arthur Rinderknech:
On the emotions of playing his final career team match:
“It was a great match. I really enjoyed being a part of the team this year. I’m proud of what we did. We were really close but came up just short. 

#1 Wake Forest 4, #5 Texas A&M 3
May 21, 2018 at Winston-Salem, N.C. (Wake Forest Tennis Complex)
Singles competition
1. #7 Borna Gojo (WF) def. #5 Patrick Kypson (TAMU) 6-2, 6-1
2. #4 Petros Chrysochos (WF) def. #12 Arthur Rinderknech (TAMU) 6-2, 6-1
3. #48 Jordi Arconada (TAMU) def. #38 Skander Mansouri (WF) 4-6, 6-2, 7-5
4. #72 Valentin Vacherot (TAMU) def. Bar Botzer (WF) 6-3, 6-2
5. Juan Carlos Aguilar (TAMU) def. Alan Gadjiev (WF) 7-6 (8-6), 6-3
6. Christian Seraphim (WF) def. Barnaby Smith (TAMU) 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-0
Doubles competition
1. #21 Borna Gojo/Skander Mansouri (WF) def. #3 Juan Carlos Aguilar/Jordi Arconada (TAMU) 6-0
2. #38 Petros Chrysochos/Bar Botzer (WF) def. AJ Catanzariti/Arthur Rinderknech (TAMU) 6-3
3. Christian Seraphim/Ian Dempster (WF) vs. Patrick Kypson/Valentin Vacherot (TAMU) 5-4, unfinished
Match Notes
Texas A&M 26-6; National ranking #5
Wake Forest 30-2; National ranking #1
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (1,2,4,3,5,6)
2018 NCAA Semifinals of NCAA Championships
Two Weather delays, the first lasting for roughly 3 hours and the second for 50m



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