The NCAA's Women's Final Four is set after a long day of tennis in Orlando with the first ball struck at noon eastern and the last celebration taking place just before midnight. The two late matches were the closer of the four with top seed Georgia coming back from a late 3-2 deficit to edge No. 8 Vanderbilt 4-3 while No. 5 Duke pulled off the mild upset over No. 4 South Carolina 4-1.
SEC rivals Georgia and Vanderbilt were meeting for the third time in the last three months and for the second time Vanderbilt would grab the early lead after an impressive performance in doubles.
Vanderbilt jumped out to break leads on all three courts but Georgia came back to tie all three at 3-3. VU's top team of Emma Kurtz and Emily Smith won the next three games to close out Lourdes Carle and Katarina Jokic 6-3 while Georgia's No. 3 team of Marta Gonzalez and Meg Kowalski won the next two and served for the match up 5-3. VU's Christina Rosca and Amanda Meyer broke back on 3 and were serving at 4-5 when teammates Fernanda Contreras and Georgia Drummy sealed the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 2 over previously unbeaten Elena Christofi and Vivian Wolff (16-0 now 16-1).
Vanderbilt came out strong in singles and went up breaks on all but one court and would ultimately take four opening sets.
Despite going down an early break at No. 1 singles, Georgia sophomore Katarina Jokic would get it back on serve at 2-2 and then go on to win 10 of the next 13 games to defeat Georgia Drummy 6-3, 6-2 which tied the overall match at 1-1.
VU senior Fernanda Contreras put the Dores back in front with a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 2 over Marta Gonzalez. Contreras had also defeated Gonzalez in straight sets in the final regular season meeting while Gonzalez lost for the third time against VU.
UGA sophomore Vivian Wolff tied it back up after winning her 19th straight match (23-1 in dual-match play) with a come from behind 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 win over Amanda Meyer at No. 4 singles. Meyer had handed Wolff her only dual-match loss of the year back in February when the teams met at the National Team Indoors in Seattle.
Friday will be the start of the NCAA Women's Quarterfinals with the top 8 seeds making it to the Elite 8 for the first time since 2011. While the men have a day off between the quarters and semis the women will play three straight days which means fitness is going to be key with most of these matches expected to be hotly contested.
Five of the final eight have won a NCAA Championship with Stanford leading the way with 19 titles, Georgia and UCLA each having 2, while Vanderbilt and Duke have 1. Neither South Carolina or Pepperdine have ever advanced past the quarterfinal round while North Carolina will look to do so for just the third time in program history.
If looking at the UTR Power 6s, Georgia is the biggest favorite (+2.20) in the quarterfinals while No. 5 seed Duke is a favorite over No. 4 South Carolina with a UTR Power 6 of 1.01 point higher.
Slam.Tennis shows that Georgia and North Carolina are both prohibitive favorites, with an expected winning percentage of 96%, while Duke is the smallest favorite with a 56% expected winning percentage over South Carolina.
The USTA National Campus's website has all the links that you'll need to follow the championships so make sure you check out what they have to offer.
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 opening day of the 2019 NCAA Tournament was plagued by rain at many sites but despite the delays most of the matches went according to plan with all the national seeds in action advancing though in the 2 vs. 3 matches (I know they don't refer to them that way anymore but I will) there were several close ones. All 16 men's sites were supposed to complete their first round matches on Friday but rain wiped out play in College Station at the indoor-less Texas A&M Regional so they'll play on Saturday and Sunday. 7 of the 16 women's sites played on Friday with the matches in Stillwater being played indoors while Kansas and Denver started outdoors but moved indoors in Lawrence.
I'll start off with the closest women's matches of the day which took place in Stillwater and Nashville.
Friday afternoon's Battle for LA between UCLA and USC went down to the wire, as many of these encounters do, and in the end it was the No. 13 Bruins prevailing with a close as it gets 4-3 win over the No. 9 Trojans. UCLA jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after a 6-4 win at No. 1 doubles and a 6-3 win at No. 2. Each team claimed three opening sets in singles and four of the six matches would finish in straight sets. USC took a 3-2 lead after getting straight set wins from Brandon Holt, Laurens Verboven, and Mor Bullis at No. 1, No. 3, and No. 6 while Keegan Smith won in straights at No. 2 for UCLA.
UCLA tied it up at 3-3 after Ben Goldberg knocked off Logan Smith 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 at No. 5 which meant the decider would come at No. 4 between UCLA freshman Patrick Zahraj and USC junior Riley Smith. Zahraj won the opening set in a tiebreak 7-4 while Smith claimed the second set 7-5. Smith led 4-2 in the third set before Zahraj held, broke, and held to take a 5-4 lead. After an exchange of holds, Smith fought off a match point by holding on the no-ad point to send it to a match-deciding tiebreak. Zahraj jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the tiebreak but Smith took the next four to go up 5-4. Zahraj got the mini-break back to even it at 5-5 before Smith retook the lead at 6-5. Zahraj won both points on his serve to go up 7-6 and then after Smith tied it at 7-7 Zahraj went up 8-7. Zahraj closed it out on the next point to give UCLA the win.
Friday was a stacked day with nine matchups between top 25 teams with six of those coming on the women's side. The highest profile match on the men's side took place in Waco with sixth-ranked Baylor hosting ninth-ranked TCU. The Bears claimed the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 1 and a 7-6(5) win at No. 3 and then in singles each team won three opening sets. Only two of the six matches would finish in straight sets with Baylor's Sven Lah winning 6-3, 6-3 at No. 5 while TCU's Alex Rybakov won 7-5, 6-3 at No. 1.
Baylor's Will Little put the Bears up 3-1 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 4 and Jimmy Bendeck clinched at No. 6 with a 7-6, 3-6, 6-2 win. The other two matches were played out with Baylor's Johannes Schretter winning at No. 2 while TCU's Reese Stalder won at No. 3.
Baylor Head coach Brian Boland on the win…
"We enjoyed it. It was a tremendous crowd, and everyone came out and supported a great college tennis match and it was everything (and) more than we thought it would be. I'm just happy for the guys. They really prepared well all week, and now we have to get ready to play Texas, so we do not have a lot of time. But a tribute to our leaders, they played really hard tonight and did a really good job preparing this week, along with the rest of the team. Once again, doubles is pivotal in terms of the momentum, especially in matches that are as competitive as this one. And congratulations to TCU, they played a great match, and I look forward to another opportunity to play them again down the road. The Big 12 is a big challenge, and now we have another top-five team in front of us on Sunday."
Friday brought us seven matchups between top 25 teams with five taking place on the men's side and two on the women's side. The only top 10 matchup took place in Nashville with fifth-ranked Vanderbilt hosting sixth-ranked South Carolina. The Gamecocks hadn't beaten Vandy in Nashville since 2005 but the 14 year drought came to end thanks to a few key points in doubles and then getting all around strong play throughout the singles lineup.
South Carolina grabbed the early lead after taking the doubles point with a 6-1 win at No. 1 and a 7-6(4) win at No. 2. In singles, SC claimed four opening sets and they'd manage to close three out in straight sets. Ingrid Gamarra Martins was first off the court with a 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 1 and Kennedy Wicker followed with a 6-2, 7-6 win at No. 6. While the matches at No. 3, No. 4, and No. 5 were deep in the third set, SC senior Paige Cline would close out her match at No. 2 in straight sets with a 6-2, 7-6(4) win.
The big top 10 showdown on Saturday took place at Stanford with the No. 4 Cardinal hosting No. 7 Vanderbilt in a rematch of last year's NCAA Championship Final. Stanford won that match in Winston-Salem 4-3 with some final court drama but this one on Saturday at Stanford was a pretty cut and dry win for the Cardinal. Stanford rolled through doubles only dropping two games each at No. 1 and No. 3 and then they added five first sets in singles with four of them being lopsided 6-1 scores. Melissa Lord made it 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 win over at No. 2 and Emma Higuchi made it 3-0 with a 6-1, 7-6 win at No. 6. Emily Arthbuthnott provided the clincher at No. 4 with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 win.
The other matches were played out with Stanford adding two more points with wins at No. 5 and No. 3 while Vandy got its lone point at No. 1 after Fernanda Contreras fought off multiple match points to win a third set supertiebreak 14-12.
It was another crazy of tennis with the rain wrecking havoc on the women's schedule and ultimately one match was sent 70 miles away to Atlanta. The two teams that made the finals are familiar faces with 19-time champion Stanford set to meet Florida who will be playing in its 14th NCAA Final while attempting to win No. 7.
Stanford and Ohio State were the two teams sent to Atlanta with it being the second day in a row that the Buckeyes got sent there. Ohio State jumped on Stanford in doubles and took the point with a 6-2 win at No. 2 and a 6-1 win at No. 3. Stanford came back in singles and took five opening sets but the one first set that Ohio State got turned into a quick straight set win as Francesca Di Lorenzo defeated Caroline Doyle 6-1, 6-0 at No. 1.
The 2017 NCAA women's semifinalists are now set and it'll be a pair of SEC superpowers, a newcomer from the Big Ten, and perennial powerhouse from the Pac-12. The day was supposed to begin at 10 a.m. ET but due to rain everyone was put in a holding pattern. After the skies opened up and it began to pour, the decision was made that North Carolina and Stanford would go indoors in Athens at 2 p.m while Ohio State and Texas Tech would be shipped to Atlanta with a 4 p.m. start (I went to Atlanta to follow the match). Both of the late matches were put on hold but due to the skies eventually clearing they would both be played outdoors starting just 30 minutes after the original 4 p.m. start time.
The longest match of the day took place between the No. 7 seed Stanford and the No. 2 seed North Carolina. A big reason for the length, 3 hours and 18 minutes, was because Georgia's indoor facility only has four courts and the other reason was because four of the six singles matches went three sets.
Stanford got off to great start in doubles and rolled to 6-1 wins at both No. 1 and No. 2 while North Carolina had a 5-1 lead at No. 3 in a match that went unfinished.