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For the first time in school history the Texas Longhorns are the NCAA Men's National Champions after the No. 2 seed defeated the defending NCAA Champs Wake Forest 4-1.
It was a wild year in Austin that saw longtime head coach Michael Center get dismissed after his involvement in the big admissions scandal and then a month later the program achieved a No. 1 national ranking for the first time in program history. The upperclassmen-laden roster stuck together during the tough times and despite a somewhat surprising loss in the Big XII Tournament to Baylor they hit their peak during the NCAA Tournament and ran over one tough opponent after another.
Sunday's final didn't start off on the best note for the Horns after they dropped the doubles point for the first time since the second round against South Florida.
Wake Forest had dropped the doubles point in four consecutive matches so they made a change at No. 3 and replaced Sid Banthia's usual partner, Melios Efstathiou, with Julian Zlobinsky. Banthia and Zlobinsky hadn't played together since late March and Texas's Chih Chi Huang and Yuya Ito would pounce early and break for 2-1. Huang and Ito extended the lead to 5-1 and would go on to win 6-2.
Wake's Bar Botzer and Petros Chrysochos jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Colin Markes and Leo Telles at No. 2 and it'd be all holds the rest of the way with Wake winning 6-3.
The deciding match at No. 1 saw six straight holds to start the match until Wake's Alan Gadjiev and Borna Gojo broke Harrison Scott's serve on the deciding point to take a 4-3 lead. Gadjiev held for 5-3 and then Scott's partner Christian Sigsgaard held for 4-5. Gojo would serve it out at love to give Wake the 6-4 win.
Championship Sunday is upon us with No. 2 Texas taking on No. 4 Wake Forest in the men's final while No. 1 Georgia plays No. 3 Stanford in the women's final.
Wake Forest will be seeking its second consecutive championship while Texas is looking for its first. Stanford will also be seeking its second consecutive championship and 20th overall while Georgia hopes to win its third.
For the fourth straight day the weather forecast calls for plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the upper 80s so unless something unexpected happens this will be the first time in recent memory that none of the matches at the finals site were effected by wet weather.
Let's take one final dive into the numbers to see who has the edge in each championship match.
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 first day of the NCAA Championships at the USTA National Campus in Orlando didn't disappoint with a pair of thrilling matches including an upset by No. 9 North Carolina over No. 1 Ohio State.
The Buckeyes entered the match with a 32-2 overall record including a 32-2 record in doubles however it'd be North Carolina that would draw first blood.
Surprisingly none of the doubles matches were very close although there were several breaks in the opening couple of games. At No. 2 doubles, North Carolina's Brian Cernoch and Ben Sigouin (8-7 doubles record) jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Alex Kobelt and Kyle Seelig however the Buckeye duo, which entered with a 15-1 dual-match record, held and broke for 2-2. Cernoch and Sigouin broke back from 30/40 to go up 3-2 and then Sigouin held for 4-2. Cernoch and Sigouin broke at love for 5-2 and then the lefty freshman Cernoch served it out at love to win it 6-2.
While Kobelt and Seelig were fading at No. 2, JJ Wolf and Martin Joyce (16-4) were well on their way to a win over William Blumberg and Bo Boyden (18-3) at No. 1. Wolf and Joyce earned the first break of the match to go up 3-1 and then they'd add another break to go up 5-1. Wolf served it out from 40/30 to give the Buckeyes a 6-1 win.
The deciding match at No. 3 doubles pitted a pair of teams that had only dropped a combined two matches all year with Ohio State's Hunter Tubert and John McNally a perfect 21-0 while UNC's Mac Kiger and Simon Soendergaard entered with an 18-2 record. Kiger and Soendergaard took their first lead of the match after breaking McNally on the deciding point for 3-2 (McNally was up 40/15) and then Soendergaard came back from 15/40 down to hold for 4-2. In the next game, Tubert went up 40/15 but Kiger and Soendergaard came back to break again, and then Kiger served it out from 40/30 to win it 6-2.
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.
The three top matches on Saturday each finished with lopsided results as the Texas men, Stanford women, and Michigan women rolled to wins over top 25 conference opponents.
Fourth-ranked Texas improved to 20-2 and snapped a four-match losing streak against No. 10 TCU with a 6-1 win. After TCU finished up its senior day activities, which celebrated the careers of Alex Rybakov and Reese Stalder, the Horned Frogs claimed the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2. Texas regrouped in singles and took five opening sets with Yuya Ito and Leo Telles winning in straight sets at No. 2 and No. 3 to give Texas a 2-1 lead. TCU battled back to force several third sets but ultimately the Horns would win them all with Christian Sigsgaard clinching at No. 1 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Alex Rybakov.
Texas finishes conference play next weekend with road matches at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. TCU will have to regroup quickly with No. 8 Texas A&M coming to town on Monday and then the Horned Frogs make the same trip that Texas makes to Stillwater and Norman.
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.
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.