The Super Regional round is officially in the books and after the host schools started off 14-0 they finished 14-2 with the final two matches on Saturday evening producing the two seeding upsets.
In Starkville, No. 10 seed TCU knocked off No. 7 Mississippi State 4-2 in a match that finished just over six hours after it started due to a nearly three-hour rain delay that occurred early on in singles.
In the first meeting between the two earlier this year it was Mississippi State winning the doubles point but on Saturday it was TCU that took the early lead after picking up wins at No. 1 and No. 3.
Most of the first sets were five to six games in when play was stopped by lightning and then shortly thereafter the rain came which delayed things even further.
Once play resumed, Mississippi State would maintain breaks leads at both No. 1 and No. 3 and eventually Nuno Borges and Strahinja Rakic would go on to win in straight sets to give Mississippi State the 2-1 lead. The top-ranked Borges led fourth-ranked Alex Rybakov 4-1 before the delay and would take the match 6-1, 6-4 which meant he'll finish his senior year with a perfect 25-0 dual-match record. Rakic was serving up 3-2 in the first against Reese Stalder before the delay and after closing out the set 6-3 he'd take the second 6-2 to put MSU in front.
TCU freshman Luc Fomba tied the match at 2-2 with a 7-5, 6-3 win over Trevor Foshey at No. 5. The match was on serve before the rain came but after play resumed Foshey won three of the next four games to go in front 5-4. Foshey served for the set and had a pair of set points but Fomba managed to break and then he'd hold and break again to take the set 7-5. In the second set, Fomba broke for 4-2 and would hold serve two more times to close it out.
All three of the other matches would go three sets though Mississippi State's Florian Broska had a chance to close his match out at No. 6 in straight sets. Broska had match point while serving up 7-6 in the second set tiebreak but Sander Jong won the next three points to take the tiebreak 9-7.
The Sweet 16 is almost set on the men's side with 15 of the 16 spots filled on Saturday (Texas A&M/Oklahoma to play on Sunday) while 8 women's teams punched their tickets as well with the other 8 to come on Sunday.
Since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1999, in each subsequent year there has always been at least one men's national seed that has failed to advance out of its own regional and thanks to the Cal Bears, 2019 will be no different. The Pac-12 Tournament Runner-Ups knocked off Drake in the opening round on Friday and then on Saturday they got past No. 15 Illinois 4-1.
Illinois looked like it was position to take the early lead after taking No. 1 doubles 6-3 but Cal managed to win both No. 2 and No. 3 in tiebreaks to claim 1-0 lead.
Cal used the momentum from the doubles point and took four opening sets in singles. While Illinois managed to get a 7-5, 5-2 ret. win by Aleks Kovacevic at No. 1, Cal would get straight set wins from Jack Molloy, Ben Draper, and Bjorn Hoffman at No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6 with Draper's 6-4, 7-5 win the clincher. Cal's Jacob Brumm also had a commanding lead at No. 5 in a match that went unfinished.
Next up for the Bears will be a trip to Austin to face No. 2 Texas who overcame the loss of the doubles point to defeat South Florida 4-1.
Friday afternoon's Battle for LA between UCLA and USC went down to the wire, as many of these encounters do, and in the end it was the No. 13 Bruins prevailing with a close as it gets 4-3 win over the No. 9 Trojans. UCLA jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after a 6-4 win at No. 1 doubles and a 6-3 win at No. 2. Each team claimed three opening sets in singles and four of the six matches would finish in straight sets. USC took a 3-2 lead after getting straight set wins from Brandon Holt, Laurens Verboven, and Mor Bullis at No. 1, No. 3, and No. 6 while Keegan Smith won in straights at No. 2 for UCLA.
UCLA tied it up at 3-3 after Ben Goldberg knocked off Logan Smith 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 at No. 5 which meant the decider would come at No. 4 between UCLA freshman Patrick Zahraj and USC junior Riley Smith. Zahraj won the opening set in a tiebreak 7-4 while Smith claimed the second set 7-5. Smith led 4-2 in the third set before Zahraj held, broke, and held to take a 5-4 lead. After an exchange of holds, Smith fought off a match point by holding on the no-ad point to send it to a match-deciding tiebreak. Zahraj jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak but Smith took the next four to go up 5-4. Zahraj got the mini-break back to even it at 5-5 before Smith retook the lead at 6-5. Zahraj won both points on his serve to go up 7-6 and then after Smith tied it at 7-7 Zahraj went up 8-7. Zahraj closed it out on the next point to give UCLA the win.
The USC men finished off a weekend sweep in the Bay Area by following up a 4-2 win over #40 Cal with a 4-1 win over #10 Stanford. The Trojans won a close doubles point with Brandon Holt and Riley Smith winning 7-5 at No. 1 while Daniel Cukierman and Tanner Smith prevailed 7-6(3) at No. 3. Stanford tied it up at 1-1 with a 6-4, 6-3 win from Timothy Sah at No. 6 but USC was in control everywhere else and would add straight set wins from Daniel Cukierman, Laurens Verboven, and Riley Smith at No. 2, No. 3, and No. 4 with Verboven getting the clinch.
The Stanford women looked like they were going to be upset at #16 USC but senior Caroline Lampl refused to lose and gutted out a third set tiebreak to secure the 4-3 Cardinal win. With the score even at 3-3, USC's Rianna Valdes served for the match on two occasions at 5-4 and 6-5 but she wouldn't come close to a match point on either occasion so off to a tiebreak they went. The tiebreak was tied at 3-3 at the changeover but Lampl would take the next 3 points to go ahead 6-3 and would go on to take it 7-4. The win was Lampl's 15th straight and it came on a day when the Cardinal needed it with Emily Arbuthnott out of the singles lineup.
Friday was a stacked day with nine matchups between top 25 teams with six of those coming on the women's side. The highest profile match on the men's side took place in Waco with sixth-ranked Baylor hosting ninth-ranked TCU. The Bears claimed the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 1 and a 7-6(5) win at No. 3 and then in singles each team won three opening sets. Only two of the six matches would finish in straight sets with Baylor's Sven Lah winning 6-3, 6-3 at No. 5 while TCU's Alex Rybakov won 7-5, 6-3 at No. 1.
Baylor's Will Little put the Bears up 3-1 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 4 and Jimmy Bendeck clinched at No. 6 with a 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 win. The other two matches were played out with Baylor's Johannes Schretter winning at No. 2 while TCU's Reese Stalder won at No. 3.
Baylor Head coach Brian Boland on the win…
"We enjoyed it. It was a tremendous crowd, and everyone came out and supported a great college tennis match and it was everything (and) more than we thought it would be. I'm just happy for the guys. They really prepared well all week, and now we have to get ready to play Texas, so we do not have a lot of time. But a tribute to our leaders, they played really hard tonight and did a really good job preparing this week, along with the rest of the team. Once again, doubles is pivotal in terms of the momentum, especially in matches that are as competitive as this one. And congratulations to TCU, they played a great match, and I look forward to another opportunity to play them again down the road. The Big 12 is a big challenge, and now we have another top-five team in front of us on Sunday."
Saturday was a busy day across the Pac-12 with 8 of the 9 men's schools in action while there were 4 in action on the women's side. On the men's side #7/#6 Stanford and Cal finished off weekend sweeps of #21 Arizona and Arizona State. Stanford won a top 25 showdown over Arizona in convincing fashion with the Cardinal winning every completed set in singles. Cal came back from 2-0 down with four straight set wins in singles to defeat Arizona State 4-2.
#12/#21 Oregon overcame a slow start at home to defeat Washington 5-1. The Ducks dropped the doubles point but won a lot of close first sets and used that as a springboard to collect four straight set wins.
#19/#12 USC was playing without one of its top players, Daniel Cukierman, but managed to pull through on the road over #41 Utah 4-2. The Trojans jumped out to a 3-0 lead but Utah won the top two spots in straight sets to pull within 3-2. Both of the remaining matches went three sets and it'd be USC freshman Jack Sands clinching at No. 5 with a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 win while the match at No. 3 went unfinished with Utah junior Slava Shainyan leading 6-5.
The big top 10 showdown on Saturday took place at Stanford with the No. 4 Cardinal hosting No. 7 Vanderbilt in a rematch of last year's NCAA Championship Final. Stanford won that match in Winston-Salem 4-3 with some final court drama but this one on Saturday at Stanford was a pretty cut and dry win for the Cardinal. Stanford rolled through doubles only dropping two games each at No. 1 and No. 3 and then they added five first sets in singles with four of them being lopsided 6-1 scores. Melissa Lord made it 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 win over at No. 2 and Emma Higuchi made it 3-0 with a 6-1, 7-6 win at No. 6. Emily Arthbuthnott provided the clincher at No. 4 with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 win.
The other matches were played out with Stanford adding two more points with wins at No. 5 and No. 3 while Vandy got its lone point at No. 1 after Fernanda Contreras fought off multiple match points to win a third set supertiebreak 14-12.
Tennis was played in many parts of the country on Saturday but one place where it wasn't was in Seattle. Almost a foot of snow closed down the University of Washington and made the roads unsafe so the second day of the Women's National Team Indoors was called off. As it stands right now a full schedule will be played on Sunday with the main draw quarterfinal matches to be played at 10 am and 1 pm pacific time while the consolation matches are scheduled for 4 pm and 7 pm pacific time. The semifinals will be played on Monday with a Tuesday final though I'm not sure if they'll be another round of consolation matches played on Monday. Check out Slam.Tennis for the full schedule along with any changes that are made throughout the day.
While snow knocked out play in Seattle it was rain that did in the highly anticipated top 10 men's clash in Los Angeles between No. 7 UCLA and No. 10 Stanford. However just 12 miles away at USC there was no rain and No. 5 USC and Cal were able to play a full four plus hour classic that saw Cal come back from 1-3 down to stun USC 4-3. It was the second day in a row the Trojans led a match at home 3-1 only to see the lead disappear in heartbreaking fashion.
The late-afternoon and night sessions brought us the only 4-3 matches of the day as Pepperdine upset the hosts Georgia while last year's NCAA runner-up Oklahoma State took out the other local favorite Georgia Tech. The top seed Florida won a tough doubles point over Texas A&M but then pulled away in singles while the SEC Champs Vanderbilt came from behind to win the doubles point and then got it done in singles against California.
Photo by Bill Kallenberg (CapturedInAction.com)
Pepperdine was able to claim the all-important doubles point for the 22nd time in 28 matches after picking up wins on 1 and 3 while Georgia won at 2. The match at No. 1 doubles only saw one break of serve and it came when Pepperdine broke from 30/40 to go up 5-4. In the previous game Pepperdine got a huge no-ad hold when Christine Maddox hit a service winner and then two games later Mayar Sherif Ahmed served it out from 40/15 to win 6-4.
The opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament were completed last weekend so now it's time to look at the Sweet 16 matchups that will take place on Thursday in Athens, Georgia. There will two matches taking place at the same time with one on the main Henry Feild Stadium Courts and the other on the McWhorter Courts. The first matches start at 9 a.m. ET with the final two set to start at 7 p.m. ET though it wouldn't surprise me to see both of the 4 p.m. matches run late. Six of the eight matches will be rematches from the regular season so it'll be interesting to see how those teams do the second time around.