The opening day of the 2019 NCAA Tournament was plagued by rain at many sites but despite the delays most of the matches went according to plan with all the national seeds in action advancing though in the 2 vs. 3 matches (I know they don't refer to them that way anymore but I will) there were several close ones. All 16 men's sites were supposed to complete their first round matches on Friday but rain wiped out play in College Station at the indoor-less Texas A&M Regional so they'll play on Saturday and Sunday. 7 of the 16 women's sites played on Friday with the matches in Stillwater being played indoors while Kansas and Denver started outdoors but moved indoors in Lawrence.
I'll start off with the closest women's matches of the day which took place in Stillwater and Nashville.
Utah and No. 12 Stanford had met 37 times headed into Sunday's men's match in Salt Lake City and despite some recent close encounters the Utes had only tasted victory once with that coming over 30 years ago. Stanford's top player Axel Geller did not play, despite suiting up on Thursday against Cal Poly, so the Cardinal had to make some adjustments to both their doubles and singles lineup and Utah rose to the occasion on senior day with its departing trio each playing a role in the 4-2 upset win.
Utah senior David Micevski and junior Slava Shainyan were the first off the court in doubles with a 6-3 win at No. 1 over Stanford's usual No 2 team of Jack Barber and William Genesen. Moments later Stanford's Sameer Kumar, who normally teams with Geller at No. 1, and Sangeet Sridhar won 6-4 at No. 2 doubles to make the match at No. 3 the decider.
Utah senior Joe Woolley and sophomore Russell Benkaim would win that decider in a tiebreak 7-2 over Alexandre Rotsaert and Timothy Sah with the Stanford pair in their usual spot at No. 3.
In singles each team would take three opening sets with Utah claiming the top three while Stanford took the bottom three.
Utah senior Dan Little made it 2-0 after rolling in his final match at home with an impressive 6-3, 6-2 win over Rotsaert at No. 1 however Stanford was closing in on wins on the bottom three courts.
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.
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."
Wednesday was rankings release day with both the ITA and USTA releases its latest rankings. Up until this point all the ITA team rankings have been done by committee but starting with this week and going forward the computers take so that's why we saw a bunch of swings in this week's rankings versus prior weeks. The computer rankings used each team's four best wins while deducting points for losses so that's why we had a few notable teams not show up in the top 50 (Georgia/Texas A&M).
As expected Ohio State is the new men's No. 1 after running the table at the National Team Indoors while Wake Forest comes in at No. 2. Virginia made one of the bigger upward moves from 13 to 4 while Illinois came up from 14 to 8. Oregon made a jump from unranked to 15 while LSU and Penn also made nice jumps into the top 25 after being unranked.
There wasn't much change in the top 4 on the women's side, since most teams were idle last week, however there was plenty of move down below 4. Some of the teams that fell the most were Pepperdine from 6 to 20, Michigan from 13 to 27, and Florida from 24 to 48. The teams that rose the most were Washington State going from unranked to 15, Florida State from 20 to 12, and Old Dominion from unranked to No. 19.
The latest USTA Top 25 didn't have any changes at the No. 1 spot, since Ohio State moved up to No. 1 the week prior on the men's side, with Georgia remaining at No. 1 on the women's side. On the men's side some notable increases were Wake Forest from 5 to 2, TCU from 15 to 7, and Columbia from 14 to 9. Mississippi State fell 10 spots from 2 to 12 after a less than successful weekend in Chicago and Florida dropped 5 spots from 8 to 3 after also coming up short in Chicago.
Many of the top women's programs were idle last week so the changes weren't too noticeable in the top 20 aside from Pepperdine falling from 7 to 13 after they lost to Cal who has gone from unranked to 20.
The big match of the day on Saturday came on the women's side with No. 3 North Carolina picking up a 5-2 road win over No. 2 Vanderbilt. The Heels came out strong in doubles and took the point with a pair of 6-2 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 and in singles Alexa Graham quickly made it 2-0 with a 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 2 singles. Fernanda Contreras, ITA No. 6, put Vandy on the board with a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 2 ranked Makenna Jones but that'd be just about all Vandy could muster. UNC freshman Cameron Morra made it 3-1 with a 7-5, 7-5 win over fellow freshman Carolyn Campana at No. 4 and UNC sophomore Alle Sanford would provide the clincher at No. 5 with a 6-3, 1-6, 7-5 win over Emily Smith. The final two matches were played out with Vandy getting its second point with a win from Georgia Drummy at No. 3 while UNC's Jessie Aney rolled at No. 6 in a match that didn't start until after the first singles match was completed since Vandy's indoor facility has only five courts.
If you tried to follow this top 3 showdown at home the only way you could see the scores was if you clicked on the video link for each court because for some reason Vandy has stopped providing live scoring. While streaming video is great not having a live scoring page to summarize everything is extremely poor. The summarized scoring updates on twitter were bad at best with neither team putting forth much effort. If you're looking to grow the sport making it extremely difficult to get basic scoring updates is not the way to go.
Several players with college ties have roared into the quarterfinals at the USA F24 Futures in Champaign, Illinois. Recent Valparaiso graduate Jeffrey Schorsch picked up his first ATP point on Tuesday in a two-minute 1-0 retirement win over former Illinois No. 1 Farris Gosea. Schorsch added two more ATP points on Wednesday after he defeated another former Illinois No. 1 with a 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 win over Dennis Nevolo. Schorsch's next opponent will be the No. 3 seed Dominik Koepfer after the Tulane graduate defeated UCLA rising senior Martin Redlicki in the first round and American Alexios Halebian in the second round.
Harrison Adams started off the week in the qualifying draw but now the former Aggie has found himself in his third-career quarterfinal after defeating former Buckeye Hunter Callahan and the top seed Australia's Luke Saville. On Wednesday afternoon against Saville, Adams trailed 6-3, 4-2 but he rattled off five of the next six games to take the set 7-5. In the third set Adams trailed 5-3 but he won 16 of the final 21 points to close it out 3-6, 7-5, 7-5. Adams quarterfinal opponent will be ATP #935 Ricardo Rodriguez-Pace.
For the most part Friday was a pretty dull day but Saturday delivered us some gems including two big comeback wins. I'll start with the upset of the day which came in Stillwater when Illinois rallied from 3-0 down to stun No. 11 seed Oklahoma State 4-3. The Cowboys took the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 and then each team took three opening sets in singles. Oklahoma State seniors Lucas Gerch and Lukas Finzelberg made quick work of their opponents at No. 3 and No. 6 to make it 3-0 but Illinois started winning all the close sets and got back in the match.
Aron Hiltzik put the Illini on the board with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 2 which elicited a big fist pump from head coach Brad Dancer and then both Aleks Kovacevic and Zeke Clark would win their matches within seconds of each other to tie it up at 3-3. Clark came back from a 4-0 first set deficit to take the set 6-4 and then he won the second set in a tiebreak by a 10-8 score. Kovacevic had a chance to close his match out in straight sets but after failing to do so he won the third set 6-0.
Illinois junior Aleks Vukic, who missed yesterday's match against Drake, would get the clincher with a 7-6, 7-6 win over Julian Cash at No. 1. Illinois is headed back to the Sweet 16 for the first time in two years and in doing so that means that an unseeded team has advanced to the Sweet 16 every year since the NCAA field was expanded to 64 teams in 1999.
Former Virginia Tech Hokie Sebastien Jacques is making his way across the country, by foot, after not being able to walk across a room just a few years ago. Jacques played at Virginia Tech from 2007 to 2010 but during his senior year he had to quit playing due to a lack of energy. After graduating with a degree in marketing he returned home to Magog, Canada, and after seeing several doctor he was eventually diagnosed with a pineal cystic tumor in his brain which was the cause of the energy drain. The doctors in Canada determined the procedure was too risky and the health care system wouldn't cover the cost so Jacques ended up raising $80000 and had the surgery performed in California. The surgery was a success and Jacques returned to a normal life but he decided to embark on the cross-country walk to show people that it is possible to overcome obstacles in life. Virginia Tech had a write-up on Jacques a few days ago plus there are plenty of details on his website.
The NCAA Division II Men's Championship has reached the semifinals with #1 West Florida advancing after a 5-0 win over #4 Hawaii Pacific. UWF's top player, #4 Alex Peyrot, played doubles but sat out in singles which was interesting because in the round of 16 its #2 player, Gabriel Dias, did the same thing. Next up for UWF will be #23 Southwest Baptist after the Bearcats held off #16 Ferris State 5-4 with Raul Cabalero winning the deciding match 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(1) at #4 singles. The other semifinal match will be between #2 Barry and #3 Columbus State. Barry cruised past #18 Drury 5-1 with the Bucs taking two of three in doubles and winning every completed set in singles. Columbus State ran through #14 Azusa Pacific 5-1 with the Cougars sweeping all three doubles courts (count as a point each) and then getting two straight set wins at #3 and #4. APU got its lone point when Oliver Frank, D2s top ranked player, cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 win at #1.
WOW - what a tremendous day of college tennis action! The day got started early with No. 2 Wake Forest hosting No. 5 North Carolina and it finished 10 hours later with No. 31 TCU pulling off an upset win over No. 6 Cal. Both of the matches in Orlando were tremendous with No. 36 Florida State and No. 15 Florida playing in front of a College MatchDay record-crowd and then at the same time on the other six courts you had Tulsa and Central Florida go down to the wire.
I'll start off with the biggest upset of the day, in terms of ranking, which took place in Palo Alto between a resurgent No. 41 Stanford and No. 8 Texas. The Cardinal was coming off a huge win on Tuesday night over No. 6 Cal in a match where it dropped the doubles point but rallied to win four singles matches. On Friday afternoon, Stanford managed to get out to the early lead after securing the doubles point for the seventh time in eleven matches. Stanford's No. 2 team of Sameer Kumar and Michael Genender broke Texas's Harrison Scott and Julian Zlobinsky on the no-ad point to go ahead 3-2 and then they held for 4-2. Texas would come back from 0/40 down to hold for 3-4 but Stanford would hold from 40/30 and then break from 15/40 to win it 6-3.