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.
The late-afternoon and night sessions brought us the only 4-3 matches of the day as Pepperdine upset the hosts Georgia while last year's NCAA runner-up Oklahoma State took out the other local favorite Georgia Tech. The top seed Florida won a tough doubles point over Texas A&M but then pulled away in singles while the SEC Champs Vanderbilt came from behind to win the doubles point and then got it done in singles against California.
Photo by Bill Kallenberg (CapturedInAction.com)
Pepperdine was able to claim the all-important doubles point for the 22nd time in 28 matches after picking up wins on 1 and 3 while Georgia won at 2. The match at No. 1 doubles only saw one break of serve and it came when Pepperdine broke from 30/40 to go up 5-4. In the previous game Pepperdine got a huge no-ad hold when Christine Maddox hit a service winner and then two games later Mayar Sherif Ahmed served it out from 40/15 to win 6-4.
Top seed Vanderbilt knocked off top ranked Florida 4-3 to win the SEC Championship in match that was played indoors at Vanderbilt. Florida played without Josie Kuhlman (#2 singles/#3 doubles) who was sick with a stomach illness but the Gators still rolled through the doubles point to take the early lead. Vandy's Astra Sharma tied the match with a win at No. 1 but Florida's Kourtney Keegan made it 2-1 with a win at No. 5. Vandy's Sydney Campbell pulled out a three set win at No. 2 to even the match at 2-2 but Florida's Anna Danilina put the Gators back in front with a three set win at No. 4. Vandy's Christina Rosca tied the match at 3-3 with a three set win at No. 3 so the final match to go on court in the five-court facility would decide the championship.
Vanderbilt sophomore Fernanda Contreras won the first nine games of the match to go in front of Florida senior Spencer Liang 6-0, 3-0 but Liang came back to take the next five to go up 5-3. Contreras broke Liang from 15/40 with a lob winner to make it 5-4 and then she hit a service winner on the no-ad point to hold for 5-5. Contreras would go on to win the next eight points to close it out 6-0, 7-5 to give Vanderbilt its second SEC Tournament Championship in school history.
Thursday was a busy day in the SEC with eight teams in action however the highest profile match of the day didn't quite live up to expectations. Georgia, ranked No. 14, strolled into Starkville and took out the host No. 17 Mississippi State 4-0 in just under two and a half hours. The doubles point itself took just under an hour with two of the three matches going to tiebreaks. Mississippi State's No. 2 team of Mate Cutura and Vaughn Hunter won the only match that didn't go to a tiebreak. Cutura and Hunter broke from 30/40 to go up 3-2 and then they came back from 15/40 down to hold for 4-2. After an exchange of holds, Cutura and Hunter broke at love to take it 6-3.
The other two matches looked like they'd be blowouts after the way each started. Mississippi State's Niclas Braun and Trevor Foshey jumped out to a 4-1 lead at No. 1 but Georgia's Robert Loeb and Jan Zielinski came back to tie it at 4-4. Mississippi State held on the no-ad point for 5-4 and after three more holds it'd go to a tiebreak. Georgia jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the tiebreak and they wouldn't drop a point on serve and would win it 7-3.
Georgia's Walker Duncan and Wayne Montgomery jumped out to a 4-0 lead at No. 2 doubles however Mississippi State's Nuno Borges and Giovanni Oradini would come all the way back to tie it at 5-5 after breaking Georgia on the no-ad point. Each team had an easy hold to push it to a tiebreak and then Georgia went up a mini-break at 2-1 and pulled away to win it 7-5.
Thursday was a busy day in the SEC with eight teams in action since the conference is playing on Thursday and Saturday this week. Three of the four matches saw the road team pick up a win while No. 17 Kentucky was the only team to win at home. TCU finished off its West Coast trip with another win while just down the road UCLA knocked off Duke.