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Wednesday, 17 May 2017 09:30

Men's Sweet 16 Previews

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. 

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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.  

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Georgia Tech junior Chris Eubanks accepted a main draw wild card into the BB&T Atlanta Open, which is an ATP 250 event, with his opening round match scheduled for Tuesday, July 25. Eubanks has played in the main draw of the Atlanta event two years in a row though he had to go through qualies last year to do so. Eubanks has been ranked in the ITA Top 10 all year and was recently named the ACC Men's Player of the Year for the second year in a row. For more information see the release from the BB&T Atlanta Open. 

The NCAA Division II Men's Round of 16 got underway today in Altamonte Springs, Florida, with #1 West Florida, #2 Barry, #3 Columbus State, #4 Hawaii Pacific, #14 Azusa Pacific, #16 Ferris State, #18 Drury, and #23 Southwest Baptist moving on to tomorrow's quarterfinal round. Of those eight winners the only lower ranked team to win was Southwest Baptist which defeated #20 St. Mary's (TX) 5-3. The highest profile matchup in the quarterfinals will be #1 West Florida taking on #4 Hawaii Pacific. For the men's bracket click here and to see individual match results click hereThe women's round of 16 gets started tomorrow though I see that #1 BYU-Hawaii and #2 Barry are in the same quarterfinal so I'm not sure what's going on with the bracket making at the D2 level. The bracket is available here and the box scores from each match are available here. The brackets don't have any seeds listed (guess they don't do that?) so it's kind of hard to tell who is the better team without going through the rankings. 

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Virginia won its 12th ACC Tournament Championship by defeating the top seed and top ranked team in the country Wake Forest 4-3. The Cavaliers came into the match having lost two straight against Wake Forest after the Demon Deacons beat them in last year's ACC Championship and then earlier this year in Winston-Salem. Virginia jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after picking up doubles wins at No. 2 and No. 3. UVA's  No. 2 team of Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard broke for 5-3 and then served it out for 6-3 while its No. 3 team of Collin Altamirano and JC Aragone clinched the point by breaking to win 6-4.

Virginia came out strong in singles and took four opening sets but Wake Forest's Petros Chrysochos put the next point on the board with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Alexander Ritschard at No. 1. The match didn't stay tied for long because UVA senior Thai-Son Kwiatkowski closed out Borna Gojo 6-4, 6-4 and a little while later junior Collin Altamirano made it 3-1 after defeating Dennis Uspensky 6-3, 6-4. Wake trimmed the deficit to 3-2 after Alan Gadjiev got past Henrik Wiersholm 6-4, 6-3 and then the Deacs would force third sets on each of the remaining courts. 

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USC won its third Pac-12 Tournament Championship with a thrilling 4-3 win over crosstown rival UCLA. The Trojans jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after winning the deciding doubles match in a tiebreak and then they tacked on four first sets in singles. UCLA junior Martin Redlicki tied the match at 1-1 with a straight set win at No. 2 but USC retook the lead after Logan Smith won 7-5, 6-1 at No. 3. Thibault Forget made it 3-1 after a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 3 but UCLA wasn't ready to go away. Maxime Cressy pulled out a 7-6, 6-4 win at No. 6 and Logan Staggs came back from a set down to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 at No. 4. The match came down to a deciding third set at No. 1 between USC freshman Brandon Holt and UCLA senior Gage Brymer. While Holt was holding comfortably, everyone of Brymer's service games was a battle. Brymer held on the no-ad point in three consecutive service game including when he fell behind 15/40 while serving at 3-4. Holt held for 5-4 and then after going up 0/40 he'd break Brymer from 30/40 to clinch the championship. 

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UCLA and Ohio State both won outright regular season conference titles on Friday night with the Bruins defeating crosstown rival No. 6 USC 4-1 while the Buckeyes beat up No. 21 Northwestern 6-1. UCLA jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2 and then the Bruins added four first sets in singles. Evan Zhu and Logan Staggs won in straight sets at No. 3 and No. 4 to make it 3-0 but USC would get on the board with a straight set win from Thibault Forget at No. 5. USC was getting close to a win at No. 6 and had an early break lead in the third at No. 1 but UCLA's Martin Redlicki would squash any hopes of a comeback after he closed out Nick Crystal 7-6, 7-6 at No. 2. UCLA and USC will both gets byes into the semifinals of the Pac-12 Tournament which begins on Wednesday in Ojai. 

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The latest USTA Top 25 is out with both the Wake Forest men and Florida women remaining at No. 1 although their leads at the top are as slim as they've been. On the men's side Virginia is just two votes back at No. 2 while on the women's side Ohio State is only one vote behind Florida. There was no change in the men's top six though Baylor moved up two spots to No. 7 while USC dropped one spot to No. 8 and Texas dropped two spots to No. 9. Florida, South Carolina, and Oregon made the biggest jumps by coming up four spots each to No. 15, No. 18, and No. 21. Georgia Tech took the biggest tumble by dropping five spots to No. 19 after a tough loss at unranked Virginia Tech. Coincidently Columbia only dropped one spot to No. 19 after it fell to unranked Harvard. 

The women's top four remained the same though Vanderbilt shot up six spots to No. 5 after its big win over Florida last Sunday. Pepperdine came up four spots to No. 8 after defeating Stanford and Texas A&M came up six spots to No. 18 after defeating Georgia in Athens. Texas Tech and Auburn each dropped four spots to No. 10 and No. 22 after T-Tech lost to unranked TCU while Auburn fell to Arkansas. 

The Tulane men and TCU women were the only newcomers to this week's poll with each coming in at No. 25. The Kentucky men and LSU women were the only two to fall out after each lost a pair of matches over the weekend. 

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Prior to Sunday, it'd been 16 years since Oklahoma State had last defeated a top 3 team but that's exactly what they did on Sunday afternoon in Waco. Third-ranked Baylor jumped on Oklahoma State in doubles and picked up a pair of 6-2 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 to take the early 1-0 lead. Oklahoma State got back in the match by taking four opening sets in singles and Lukas Finzelberg would tie the match up with a quick 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 6. Baylor answered with straight set wins from Max Tchoutakian and Johannes Schretter at No. 2 and No. 3 to go in front 3-1. Oklahoma State's Artur Dubinski followed with a straight set win at No. 4 and then Julian Cash won in three sets at No. 1 to even the match at 3-3. 

As Cash was closing out his match, Oklahoma State's Tristan Meraut and Baylor Jimmy Bendeck were headed to a second set tiebreak at No. 5 with Meraut having taken the first set. Meraut led the tiebreak 4-2 at the changeover and he would pull away and close it out 7-3 with Bendeck double faulting on the match point. 

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The ITA and Universal Tennis have entered into a five-year partnership agreement which will have the UTR name attached to the ITA Summer Circuit plus all Summer Circuit events will utilize the UTR Event Management System. The ITA and Universal Tennis will work together to make the draws at each Summer Circuit event more level-based so I would hope going forward we won't see many instances of a player with a 12.85 UTR taking on a player with a 10.25 UTR in the first round of an event. The announcement about the use of UTR Events will be appreciated by yours truly because I "tried" to cover some of the Summer Circuit events last year but tracking down results from each event was easier said than done. Some host sites used TennisLink, some updated results on their website daily, some updated results after the event was over, and some didn't update at all. The release also mentioned that TCU will host this year's Summer Circuit National Championship after it had been held at Indiana University for as long as I can remember. 

The original release says the ITA will endorse UTR as the official rating system of the ITA however for the time being UTRs won't have any bearing on the actual Oracle/ITA singles and doubles rankings. Below are a few quotes from the release:

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After watching a top 10 men's showdown on Friday night in Winston-Salem, I took in a top 10 women's showdown on Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill. Fourth-ranked North Carolina hadn't dropped a regular season conference match in three years and was riding a 50-match home court winning streak but both of those streaks would come to an end courtesy of tenth-ranked Georgia Tech. North Carolina was playing without Alexa Graham (#4S/#2D) who was out with an illness so they had to change one doubles pairing and move everyone in the lower half of the singles lineup forward one spot. 

North Carolina's Hayley Carter and Jessie Aney jumped out to an early break lead at No. 1 doubles and would add another to win 6-2. Georgia Tech's Kenya Jones and Paige Hourigan followed a similar path at No. 2 doubles and also won 6-2. The point would be decided at No. 3 between Georgia Tech's Nami Otsuka/Luca Fabian and North Carolina's Sara Daavettila/Rachael James-Baker. Georgia Tech won three of the first four games to go up 3-1 but North Carolina broke and held for 3-3. A few games later Georgia Tech held for 5-4 and then they broke UNC from 15/40, via a double fault, to take the match 6-4.  

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