I tell you there is nothing quite like the first two days at the NCAA Championship site because it's action-packed from sunrise to sunset with one good match after another. The day started off with gray skies and temperatures in the 70s but as the day progressed the sun made its way out and the temperatures shot up into the mid-80s (high humidity all day though). The morning slot saw Virginia roll over Florida on the Henry Feild Stadium courts while Texas overcame the loss of the doubles point to defeat Baylor on the McWhorter courts. Then in the noon slot it was Ohio State overcoming the loss of the doubles point to defeat Oklahoma 4-3 while TCU held off a hard charging Illinois 4-1. In the late afternoon window the hometown Georgia Bulldogs upset USC 4-3 while UCLA roughed up Texas A&M 4-1. The day was capped off with the top seed Wake Forest handling Stanford 4-0 while North Carolina defeated California 4-1. The announced crowd of 1,781 hit its peak during the Georgia/USC match with many sitting up high in the grandstand to stay out of the sun.
I'll go back through each match to give you some of the highlights though with two matches going on at the same it was hard to stay on top of both. I stuck with the Texas/Baylor match to start the day, then during the second slot I started with Ohio State/Oklahoma then watched most of singles in the TCU/Illinois match and then finished up back at the OSU/OU match. I watched just about the entire Georgia/USC match since UCLA/Texas A&M wasn't that close and then in the nightcap I spent most of my time watching UNC/Cal since the result of the Wake/Stanford match wasn't ever in doubt.
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.
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.
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 here. The 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.
Texas Tech came into this week knowing that it's only way to earn an NCAA Tournament berth was to win the conference tournament and amazingly they now sit just one match away from accomplishing that goal. On Saturday afternoon, Texas Tech picked up its third top 10 win in the last six days after coming back from 2-0 down to defeat No. 8 Oklahoma State 4-3. Oklahoma State jumped out to the early lead after winning a close doubles point and then Artur Dubinski made it 2-0 with a straight set win at No. 5. Texas Tech came back with three-set wins from Bjorn Thomson, Alex Sendegeya, and Connor Curry to go in front 3-2 before Oklahoma State's Lukas Finzelberg won in straight sets at No. 6. Texas Tech senior Jolan Cailleau would put the Red Raiders over the top with a match clinching 6-7, 6-4, 6-1 win over No. 24 Julian Cash at No. 1.
A day after USC lost a tough one at Stanford it rebounded and posted a 4-0 shutout over No. 12 Cal. USC's No. 3 team of Rob Bellamy and Jack Jaede broke for a 4-3 lead and they'd close it out a few games later for a 6-4 win. Cal picked up a 6-4 win at No. 2 doubles after Andre Goransson and Billy Griffith came back from a break down to win the final three games. The decider was at No. 1 between a pair of top 10 doubles teams. After 10 consecutive holds, USC's Brandon Holt and Riley Smith broke Cal's Florian Lakat and Filip Bergevi to go up 6-5 and then they'd serve it out to win it 7-5.
Cal came back strong in singles and took four opening sets but USC's Logan Smith and Thibault Forget each closed out their matches in straight sets to make it 3-0. Cal was a game away from wins at No. 1, No. 2, and No. 6 but USC's Jack Jaede got the clincher at No. 4 after coming back from a set down to win 3-6, 6-4, 6-0 over Filip Bergevi. Each of the remaining matches were abandoned so the final stood at 4-0.
It may have been wet on the east side of the San Francisco Bay (UCLA/Cal rained out) but on the south side it stayed dry long enough for Stanford to upset No. 5 USC 4-1. Stanford came into the match having lost its last four to USC and after dropping the doubles point it may have thought No. 5 wasn't too far off. Stanford refocused in singles and took all six first sets and then one-by-one it managed to close them out in straight sets. Sameer Kumar tied the match at 1-1 with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 2 and then David Wilczynski made it 2-1 with a 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 3. Tom Fawcett put the Cardinal within a point of the clinch after winning 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 and then senior Brandon Sutter closed it out with a 7-6, 6-1 win at No. 5.
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.
For the second time this week No. 2 Ohio State came up short in the state of Texas after No. 11 Texas A&M rallied to win 4-3.
Ohio State jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3. Ohio State's No. 1 team of Mikael Torpegaard and Herkko Pollanen broke for 2-1 and then they'd break again for 5-2 and would serve it out for 6-2. Ohio State's No. 3 team of JJ Wolf and Hunter Tubert came back from 0/40 down to hold for 3-2 and then they broke from 30/40 for 4-2. After two more holds they'd serve it out from 40/15 to win 6-3. The match at No. 2 went unfinished with Texas A&M serving at 3-4 (30/30) though A&M's Valentin Vacherot and Arthur Rinderknech had led 2-0 before Ohio State's Hugo Di Feo and Martin Joyce won three straight to go up 3-2.
Saturday was a busy day out west with USC and Baylor advancing to the finals of the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Tennis Challenge while Oregon defeated Tulane to win the San Diego Spring Break Tournament. Virginia played its first competitive match in a month and dominated Notre Dame in South Bend. Mississippi State, Auburn, and Florida each went on the road in the SEC and won 4-3 matches.