After four months of dual-match action we're finally down to the final two after a great day of tennis on Saturday.
The opening match of the day saw No. 2 Texas come through in the clutch to win a close doubles point and then after jumping No. 3 Florida in singles the Longhorns held on to win 4-2.
In doubles, Texas jumped out to early break leads at both No. 1 and No. 3 while Florida went up an early break at No. 2 but all three matches would simultaneously find their way back to 3-3. Texas's Christian Sigsgaard and Harrison Scott took the next three games to defeat Johannes Ingildsen and McClain Kessler 6-3 at No. 1. Over at No. 3 doubles, Florida's Duarte Vale and Andres Andrade would have two match points on Texas's 5-6 service game but Chih Chi Huang and Yuya Ito came back to hold and then they ran away in the tiebreak to clinch the doubles point with a 7-1 tiebreak win. The match at No. 2 went unfinished with Texas serving 5-6 (40/40) after just fighting off a match point at 30/40.
Texas used the momentum from the doubles point and really jumped on Florida in singles by going up breaks on all six courts. Florida would come back in a few spots but Texas ended up with four first sets while Florida snagged two.
Texas junior Yuya Ito would make it 2-0 after quickly disposing of Sam Riffice 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. It was Ito's fifth straight win and 17th win in his last 19 matches.
Texas senior Rodrigo Banzer was off the court next at No. 6 singles after a 6-2, 6-4 win over McClain Kessler. The difference in this match was the 40-all deciding points with Banzer going a perfect 7 for 7 which of course meant Kessler went 0 for 7.
Semifinal Saturday is less than 24 hours away with Wake Forest and North Carolina set to meet for the third time in the last three months while Texas and Florida will meet for the first time in over two years. Both matches are expected to be extremely close with the UTRs of most individual matchups almost identical.
The heat and humidity played a role in Thursday's matches and will likely be a factor again on Saturday with temps expected to be in the upper 80s. Both Wake Forest and North Carolina were on the court for 3 hours on Thursday, though the Heels played under the lights, while Texas and Florida were both off the court in just over 2 hours so neither team in either matchup will really have much of a rest advantage.
Let's get to it and take a look at the numbers.
The NCAA Quarterfinals get started at noon eastern this Thursday at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona. In case you missed the announcement last week the USTA and the Tennis Channel have entered into a three-year partnership beginning with this week where the Tennis Channel will show more than 50 hours of live matches during the NCAA Championships. During the team portion of the NCAAs the Tennis Channel will show the two late matches each day and then on Sunday they'll show both the men's and women's finals. The USTA National Campus website has plenty of information on the NCAAs and also lists all the matches that the Tennis Channel will show all the way through the individual tournament.
The eight quarterfinalists are all ranked in the most recent ITA Top 10 and I think all eight have a reasonable chance to win it all. Virginia, Wake Forest, and Baylor are the only programs of the eight remaining that have won an NCAA Championship and with Virginia and Wake set to meet on Thursday that means that at most they'll be two former champs left by the weekend.
All eight teams that won last week had the higher UTR Power 6 so it that holds up again on Thursday the four semifinalists would be North Carolina, Wake Forest, Florida, and Texas. The difference between Ohio State and North Carolina as of Sunday evening was a microscopic 0.08 so there's a chance that by match time those numbers may have shifted back towards Ohio State - regardless it should be a heck of a match.
Slam.Tennis shows that Ohio State has the largest expected winning percentage at 88% while Florida is the smallest favorite at just 57%.
The weather forecast for Thursday shows temperatures should be in the mid to upper 80s and by the weekend they'll be up around 90 so it's going to be a battle of attrition.
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.
Sunday was a big day for the University of Texas with the men's team edging #6 Baylor 4-3 at home in front of a national television audience on the Longhorn Network while the women's team went on the road to Stillwater and defeated #9 Oklahoma State 5-2.
The Texas men found themselves down 1-0 after dropping the doubles point at 1 and 2 but straight set wins in singles from Christian Sigsgaard, Yuya Ito, and Rodrigo Banzer put them in front 3-2. UT senior Colin Markes clinched the win at No. 5 with a 2-6, 6-0, 6-1 win over Sven Lah while BU's Will Little closed out the night at No. 4 with a win over Harrison Scott to make the final 4-3.
The Texas women were able to get the early momentum at Oklahoma State after winning the doubles decider at No. 2 in a tiebreak 8-6. In singles, Texas took four of six opening sets but the first two to finish were at No. 4 and No. 5 with Oklahoma State's Marina Guinart and Sofia Blanco winning 6-2, 6-0 and 6-3, 6-3. UT's Katie Poluta tied it up at 2-2 with a straight set win at No. 6 and Bianca Turati made it 3-2 with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 1. Petra Granic put the Horns over the top with a 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (2) at No. 3 while Anna Turati followed suit with a 6-4, 7-6 win at No. 2.
Wednesday had a pretty solid schedule on the men's side with five matches between top 50 teams including a pair between top 15 teams. Fourth-ranked Florida improved to 13-2 with a dominating 6-1 win at home over #13/#16 Illinois. The Gators grabbed the early lead with 6-3 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles and then in singles they won five opening sets. Sam Riffice, Andy Andrade, Johannes Ingildsen, and McClain Kessler won in straight sets at 2, 3, 4, and 5 while Duarte Vale came back from a set down to win in three sets at 6. Illinois picked up its lone point from Aleks Kovacevic who came back from a set down to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 singles over Oliver Crawford.
The other top 15 matchup between #10/#7 TCU and #12/#10 Columbia saw TCU win a close doubles point and then take all six opening sets in singles before Columbia fought back to force third sets on five courts. The Horned Frogs claimed the doubles point by winning the decider at No. 1 in a tiebreak (7-5) and senior Alex Rybakov rolled to a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 1 over #16 Jack Lin. Columbia cut the deficit to 2-1 after a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 win by Austen Huang at No. 6 but TCU would close it out with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win by Reese Stalder at No. 3 and a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win by Alastair Gray at No. 2. The other two matches went unfinished with TCU a game away from a win at No. 4 while Columbia was a game away at No. 5.
The University of Texas stayed in the news for a second day in a row after athletic director Chris Del Conte dismissed men's head coach Michael Center following the charges that made headlines all across the county on Tuesday. Center, who was in his 19th season as head coach at Texas, reportedly accepted approximately $100,000 to help an unnamed student gain admittance to Texas by labeling him as a tennis recruit. Associate head coach Bruce Berque will serve as the interim head coach for the rest of the season and I'm sure the story will be a major topic on tonight's nationally televised broadcast of Texas's match against No. 1 Ohio State which will air on the Longhorn Network. Below was the official statement from Del Conte via the University of Texas:
"After working with campus leaders to review the recent situation with Michael Center, we have decided to relieve him of his duties as our Men's Tennis coach," Del Conte said. "It's a very difficult decision, and we are grateful for the years of service that he has provided, but winning with integrity will always be paramount at The University of Texas, and it was a decision that had to be made.
"I've met with our team and assured them that we will do everything in our power to support them," Del Conte added. "I also plan to reach out to all of our commitments, signees and their families immediately. I'm grateful for Coach Berque's leadership during this challenging time. Our team is in the middle of a tremendous season, and I applaud them for how they've handled this situation, especially the way they responded in their match on Tuesday."
The Tennis Recruiting Network has an article with comments from one of Texas's top recruits for next year. The Longhorns 2019 recruiting class was rated No. 2 with four blue chips and a four-star recruit so it'll be interesting to see how many remain committed to Texas following the news this week.
Sunday was a day of near upsets with a pair of top 5 men's teams narrowly avoiding a big loss on the road. Second-ranked Wake Forest, who was playing without Borna Gojo (playing Canada Challenger) got all it wanted and more from #49 UCF.
The Knights took the early lead with 6-2 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Wake senior and ITA #1 Petros Chrysochos evened the match at 1-1 with a straight set win at No. 1 and freshman Siddhant Banthia put the Deacs ahead with a straight set win at No. 6. UCF freshman Trey Hilderbrand tied it back up with a straight set win at No. 5 but Wake freshman Melios Efstathiou won a close 7-6, 7-5 match at No. 4. Both of the remaining matches went three sets with UCF freshman Bogdan Pavel finishing first with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 win at No. 3 which evened the match at 3-3. In the final match on court at No. 2, Wake sophomore Bar Botzer broke UCF sophomore Alan Rubio to go ahead 2-1 in the final frame and then he added one more break to clinch with a 6-7, 6-1, 6-3 win.
A Tennis Channel national audience, along with 1200 fans in the stands at the USTA National Campus, witnessed UCF knocking off ITA No. 48/USTA No. 18 Florida for the first time in school history with a thrilling 4-3 win. The Knights dropped the doubles point and then in singles each team claimed three opening sets. UCF won the first two matches to finish with Natalia Serrano and Rebeka Stolmar winning in straight sets at No. 3 and No. 5 but Florida's Victor Emma evened it up with a straight set win at No. 4. UCF's Ksenia Kuznetsova put the Knights in front 3-2 with a 6-2, 7-6 win at No. 2 but Florida's No. 1 Ida Jarlskog countered with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win at the top of the lineup.
The match would be decided in a third set at No. 6 between UCF redshirt freshman Nandini Sharma and Florida freshman Anastasia Kharitonov. Kharitonov served for the match up 5-4 in the third but Sharma would break, hold, and break again to set off a wild celebration.
The opening day of the Men's National Team Indoor Championships in Chicago was a day of upsets and near-upsets as No. 2 Mississippi State and No. 4 Florida went down while No. 3 Wake Forest and No. 5 Texas survived and held on. The top seed Ohio State had no issues, North Carolina blanked a less than 100% Baylor, UCLA overcame the loss of one of its top players to get past Notre Dame, and Virginia surged past Stanford 4-2.
The day started off with the biggest upset by seeding as No. 15 TCU defeated No. 2 Mississippi State 4-1. The Horned Frogs overcame the loss of the doubles point after dropping the decider at No. 1 in a tiebreak 7-5 but they rebounded in singles and took all six opening sets. Unlike the match against Florida last Sunday, this time TCU was able to close out its courts in straight sets with Reese Stalder, Bertus Kruger, Luc Fomba, and Sander Jong winning at No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, and No. 6.