After a pretty ho-hum Saturday, Sunday brought us several good matches with a few upsets and a few near-upsets. #15/#11 USC pulled off the biggest upset of the day by going to Austin and defeating #3/#1 Texas 4-2. The Trojans grabbed the early lead with doubles wins at No. 2 and No. 3 and then the teams split opening sets in singles. All matches that finished did so in straight sets with USC getting wins from Brandon Holt, Riley Smith, and Mor Bulis at 1, 5, and 6 while Texas picked up wins from Yuya Ito and Harrison Scott at 2 and 4 while Leo Telles led 6-4, 4-4 on 3.
#8/#12 Mississippi State extended its home winning streak to 24 with a late rally to get past #22/#19 Georgia 4-3. Georgia claimed the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3 but Mississippi State fought back in singles with four opening sets. Strahinja Rakic and Nuno Borges rolled to straight set wins at No. 4 and No. 1 to make it 2-1 but Georgia's Trent Bryde would tie it at 2-2 with a straight set win at No. 3. Georgia senior Walker Duncan made it 3-2 with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 6 and it looked like match at No. 4 was all but over with Georgia freshman Philip Henning serving up 4-6, 6-2, 5-2 (30/0) against MSU senior Trevor Foshey. However on the 30/0 point Henning would go down on the baseline with what appeared to be a pretty severe ankle sprain.
Henning did his best to continue after a lengthy medical timeout but he could barely put any weight on his injured ankle and Foshey quickly won point after point. With the outcome of that match all but certain the focus went to No. 2 where MSU junior Giovanni Oradini led Georgia senior Jan Zielinski 5-4 in the third. Oradini had jumped out to a 4-1 lead early in the set but Zielinski managed to get it back on serve at 4-4. After Oradini held for 5-4 he'd get the pivotal break to close it out 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 to make it 3-3. Moments later Foshey would close out Henning 6-4, 2-6, 7-5 to extend the home winning streak to 25. Unlike most match clinchers there was no celebration in this one with Foshey and Henning hugging at the net while the teams exchanged handshakes.
A pair of top 20 matches highlighted the day on the men's side while there was a top 7 showdown on the women's side.
In Winston Salem, second-ranked Wake Forest avenged an early season loss to third-ranked Virginia with a convincing 6-1 win. The Demon Deacons opened things up by taking the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 3 and a 7-5 win at No. 3. Wake would add five opening sets in singles, with three of them coming in tiebreaks, and they'd close four of those out in straight sets with freshman Melios Efstathiou clinching at No. 4 with a 7-6, 6-3 win. Full results available at this link.
#6 Baylor won the BNP Paribas Collegiate Challenge in Indian Wells with a 4-2 win over #16 USC. The Bears won the doubles point and added straight set wins from Matias Soto, Sven Lah, and Jimmy Bendeck at 2, 5, and 6 while USC got straight set wins from Brandon Holt and Riley Smith at 1 and 4. The match at No. 3 went unfinished with USC's Laurens Verboven leading 5-3 in the third.
The second-ranked Georgia women improved to 13-0 and 5-0 in the SEC after picking up a nice 4-2 win on the road over seventh-ranked South Carolina. Georgia dropped the doubles point for the first time since the National Team Indoors and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Georgia picked up straight set wins from Lourdes Carle and Vivian Wolff at No. 3 and No. 4 while South Carolina's Paige Cline won in straight sets at No. 2.
Georgia's Elena Christofi gave the Dawgs its first lead of the match with a 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 5 and Meg Kowalski would clinch at No. 6 with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win. The match at No 1 went unfinished at 5-5 in the third after SC's Ingrid Gamarra Martins reeled off four straight games from 1-5 down.
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.
Thursday night brought us a pair of close matches in the SEC with Texas A&M and Tennessee pulling out hard fought 4-3 wins. In College Station, Texas A&M fell behind after dropping the doubles point but the Aggies rallied with four opening sets in singles. Juan Carlos Aguilar tied the match at 1-1 with a 6-0, 6-1 rout at No. 1 but Georgia's Jan Zielinski put the Bulldogs back in front with a 7-6, 6-3 win at No. 2. Texas A&M's Valentin Vacherot evened the match at 2-2 after a 7-6, 6-3 win at No. 3 but Georgia was still leading on two of the remaining courts with the third about to split sets.
Texas A&M freshman Noah Schachter came back from a break down in the third set, while also fighting off multiple breaks himself, to win 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5). Schachter trailed Georgia junior Robert Loeb 3-1 in the third set but after holding and breaking for 3-3 he'd come back from 30/40 down to hold for 4-3. After a hold by Loeb, Schachter once again came back from 30/40 down to hold for 5-4. After a few more holds Loeb would go up 2-0 in the tiebreak but it'd be 3-3 at the changeover. Schachter went up 6-4 and after being denied on his first match point he'd close it out on the next one after the chair overruled Loeb's out call on the far sideline.
Georgia freshman Phillip Henning evened the match at 3-3 with a 5-7, 7-6, 6-2 win at No. 4. Henning led the opening set 5-3 but dropped the final four games and in the second set he also led 5-3 but after dropping three straight he came back to take it in a tiebreak. Henning went up an early break in the third and broke at love to close it out.
Texas A&M's other freshman Guido Marson was nearing the finish line at No. 6 after opening up a 5-1 lead in the third set against Georgia senior Walker Duncan. 35 minutes earlier it looked like Duncan was headed for a straight set win but a missed swinging forehand volley at 6-4, *4-2 (40/40) was a turning point that got Marson back in it. Marson came back to take the second set 7-5 and after leading 5-1 it looked like he was moments away from the clinch. However Duncan would reel off three straight games which included a break of Marson's 5-2 service game on the 40/40 point. Duncan looked like he was going to get it back on serve after going up 30/40 but after coming to the net he laid off hitting a volley on a Marson backhand, since it looked like it might sail long, however the shot landed in which brought up the deciding point. Duncan would net a forehand on the deciding point to give Marson and Texas A&M the 4-3 win.
Georgia won its fourth National Team Indoor Championship, and first since 2002, in a dramatic 4-3 thriller over defending champion and No. 2 seed North Carolina. The Bulldogs found themselves in a 1-0 hole for the third straight match after the Tar Heels cruised to a 6-1 win at No. 1 doubles and a 6-2 win at No. 2. The teams split opening sets in singles but only two of the six matches would finish in straight sets and both of those went to the team in Red and Black.
Georgia junior Elena Christofi put the Dawgs on the board with a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 5 singles and freshman Meg Kowalski ran her collegiate record to 11-0 with a 6-2, 7-6(3) win at No. 6. North Carolina junior Alexa Graham evened the match at 2-2 with a 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 win at No. 3 but Georgia would retake the lead with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win by sophomore Vivian Wolff at No. 4.
Georgia junior Marta Gonzalez was on the verge of clinching the championship after taking a 5-1 lead in the third set against Sara Daavettila at No. 2 but the Tar Heel junior wouldn't go away. Daavettila held from 40/15 to make it 5-2 and then she broke from 15/40 to make it 5-3. After going up 40/0, Daavettila fought off a match point to hold on the no-ad point for 5-4. Daavettila broke Gonzalez from 30/40 to even it at 5-5 but Gonzalez broke back on the no-ad point to go up 6-5. Daavettila broke at love to send the match to a tiebreak. Gonzalez won the opening point on Daavettila's serve but Daavettila took the next four and ended up pulling away for a 3-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(3) win.
The final match left on court was at No. 1 between North Carolina junior Makenna Jones and Georgia sophomore Katarina Jokic. As the match at No. 2 finished, the score was even at 5-5 in the third however minutes earlier Jones had led 5-2. During the changeover at 5-2 Jokic took a medical timeout and then she followed that up by taking the next four games to go up 6-5. Jones would break Jokic at love to send the match to a tiebreak however the tiebreak was all Jokic as she took it 7-2 to give Georgia the win.
"It is exciting," Georgia head coach Jeff Wallace said. "I'm really proud of this team, the coaches, and the support staff that was here. It was a total team effort, which makes it really special. Drake [Bernstein – Associate Head Coach] and I spent a lot of time talking to the team about the importance of supporting each other and being a true team and then to see them pull together like they have and lift each other up in tough situations and comeback in these tough matches that we are able to get in close fashion – really, really says a lot."
The finals are set at the Women's National Team Indoor Championships in Seattle and it'll be the No. 5 seed Georgia taking on the No. 2 seed and defending champion North Carolina. Georgia snapped Stanford's 25-match winning streak by knocking off the top seeded Cardinal 4-3 in a match that lasted just over 3 hours and 20 minutes while North Carolina beat No. 3 seed Duke 4-0 in 2 hours and 30 minutes.
Stanford jumped out to the early lead after taking the doubles point with a 6-3 win at No. 1 and a 7-5 win at No. 2 but Georgia came back strong in singles and claimed four opening sets. Georgia freshman Meg Kowalski was off the court quickly after a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 6 and sophomore Vivian Wolff put the Bulldogs in front with a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 4. Stanford sophomore Janice Shin evened the match at 2-2 with a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 5 but Georgia junior Marta Gonzalez made it 3-2 with a 7-5, 6-2 win at No. 2. Stanford senior Caroline Lampl tied it at 3-3 with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 3 so the match would be decided by a third set at No. 1 singles.
Georgia sophomore Katarina Jokic jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the final set against Stanford sophomore Michaela Gordon however Gordon would hold and break to even it at 3-3. Gordon went up 40/30 in her next service game however Jokic would take the next two points to break for 4-3. Jokic held at love for 5-3 and then broke Gordon from 15/40, after a Gordon drop shot sailed wide, to take it 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.
Georgia will be making its eighth appearance in the finals of the National Team Indoors with the Bulldogs going 3-4 in the previous seven. Georgia's most recent finals appearance came in 2015, a 4-1 loss to North Carolina, while their last title came back in 2002.
There was tennis played again in Seattle after snow wiped out Saturday's schedule at the Women's National Team Indoors and while most of the favorites won there was one mild upset. In an all-SEC dual, it was the No. 5 seed Georgia coming back from 3-1 down to defeat No. 4 Vanderbilt 4-3. The Commodores took the early lead with a 7-5 win at No. 1 doubles and a 6-4 win at No. 2 and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Georgia's Katarina Jokic put the Bulldogs on the board with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 1 but Vandy answered seconds later with a 6-2, 7-6 win from Christina Rosca at No. 2. Vandy's Amanda Meyer extended the lead to 3-1 with a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 win at No. 4 and it looked like the match was all but over with Emily Smith leading 5-0 in the third at No. 5. However, Georgia junior Elena Christofi would win the next seven games to close it out 6-4, 3-6, 7-5. The Christofi comeback changed the momentum on the rest of the courts as well and both Meg Kowalski and Lourdes Carle would pull away in their third sets to complete the 4-3 Georgia win.
"We won a lot of third set matches today, and it was super exciting out there," said Georgia coach Jeff Wallace. "This was our biggest test so far, and we knew anybody you play out here is going to be really good, and it's going to be a battle. It takes a lot of maturity and discipline to hang in there like Elena did after getting down 5-0 and fighting back. Katarina (Jokic) got us on the board at No. 1 with a big win in a matchup of two of the best players in the country and then two freshmen came through in Meg (Kowalski) and Lourdes.
For the third day in a row the weather played a role at the NCAA Championships with a four-hour delay disrupting both men's semifinals matches. Both matches were moved up to a 10 a.m eastern start due to the shaking forecast but just before each match hit the three-hour mark the rain started to fall and it was followed by lightning which triggered an automatic 30-minute delay. Every effort was made to resume play outdoors and the courts were dry around 3 p.m but before warmups began it started raining again. The radar had been showing a three-hour window between 4 and 7 that was supposed to be good but when that window disappeared the decision was made to go inside.. Once play resumed indoors at 5 p.m. eastern, at Georgia's hot and humid four-court indoor facility, one match would be over in 60 seconds while the other lasted almost 45 minutes.
Virginia had won the doubles point 12 times in a row coming into today's match against Ohio State but the Buckeyes would put a halt to the streak after picking up wins No. 1 and No. 3. OSU's Hunter Tubert and JJ Wolf jumped out to a 3-1 lead at No. 3 and would then add a no-ad break for 5-2. Virginia's Collin Altamirano and JC Aragone broke back from 30/40 for 3-5 and then they held from 40/15 for 4-5. Wolf would slam the door shut by holding at love with an ace to give Ohio State a 6-4 win.
It's a semifinal Monday in Athens with both matches expected to be close. Originally these matches were scheduled for noon eastern but with rain expected around 2 they've been moved up to 10 a.m. Georgia and North Carolina will play on the Henry Feild Stadium Courts while Virginia and Ohio State will play on the McWhorter Courts. North Carolina is making its first-ever appearance in the semifinals while Georgia, Virginia, and Ohio State have been there on multiple occasions.
In each of my match previews below I'll list the projected lineups with individual singles and doubles records, individual and team UTRs, team doubles records, box scores from the previous meetings this season, plus I'll make my prediction at the end. I'll give the first one away for free but to see the other you'll need to be a CTT subscriber ($9.99 month/no long term commitment required).
Saturday may have been a long day but it was mostly definitely a great one with one thrilling match after another. The day started off with the two-time defending NCAA Champs Virginia facing some resistance but ultimately pulling away from No. 10 Texas and winning 4-1. The match of the tournament was taking place on the McWhorter Courts as No. 3 Ohio State outlasted No. 6 TCU 4-3 in a match that lasted 3 hours and 30 minutes. The late afternoon session turned into the late night session after a five-hour rain delay interrupted play during singles. Play would resume at 11 p.m. ET and surprisingly almost 500 of the announced crowd of 2324 returned to see the hosts Georgia upset No. 5 UCLA 4-2. The final match to finish was an All-ACC affair on McWhorter that saw No. 9 North Carolina upset the top seed Wake Forest 4-2.
Photo by Bill Kallenberg (CapturedInAction.com)