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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.
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."
A pair of top 20 matches highlighted the day on the men's side while there was a top 7 showdown on the women's side.
In Winston Salem, second-ranked Wake Forest avenged an early season loss to third-ranked Virginia with a convincing 6-1 win. The Demon Deacons opened things up by taking the doubles point with a 6-4 win at No. 3 and a 7-5 win at No. 3. Wake would add five opening sets in singles, with three of them coming in tiebreaks, and they'd close four of those out in straight sets with freshman Melios Efstathiou clinching at No. 4 with a 7-6, 6-3 win. Full results available at this link.
#6 Baylor won the BNP Paribas Collegiate Challenge in Indian Wells with a 4-2 win over #16 USC. The Bears won the doubles point and added straight set wins from Matias Soto, Sven Lah, and Jimmy Bendeck at 2, 5, and 6 while USC got straight set wins from Brandon Holt and Riley Smith at 1 and 4. The match at No. 3 went unfinished with USC's Laurens Verboven leading 5-3 in the third.
The second-ranked Georgia women improved to 13-0 and 5-0 in the SEC after picking up a nice 4-2 win on the road over seventh-ranked South Carolina. Georgia dropped the doubles point for the first time since the National Team Indoors and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Georgia picked up straight set wins from Lourdes Carle and Vivian Wolff at No. 3 and No. 4 while South Carolina's Paige Cline won in straight sets at No. 2.
Georgia's Elena Christofi gave the Dawgs its first lead of the match with a 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 5 and Meg Kowalski would clinch at No. 6 with a 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 win. The match at No 1 went unfinished at 5-5 in the third after SC's Ingrid Gamarra Martins reeled off four straight games from 1-5 down.
While there were several matches played on Tuesday the big story was the names released in a federal investigation into a college admissions scheme where coaches were taking payments to label prospective applicants as athletes to increase their chances of getting accepting. University of Texas head coach Michael Center was arrested and charged with conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud after reportedly accepting approximately $100,000 to designate a 2015 applicant as a tennis recruit. The unnamed applicant was accepted at Texas and subsequently enrolled in school but never played tennis. Center was placed on administrative leave by the school with associate head coach Bruce Berque named interim head coach. The charges against Center are linked here and and an article from Hook'Em is linked here. Center appeared in court on Tuesday and plead not guilty and was released on a $50,000 bond.
Current Rhode Island women's head coach Gordon Ernst, who was hired in August after serving as head coach at Georgetown for 12 years before departing unexpectedly, was charged with conspiracy to commit racketeering. Ernst is reported to have accepted approximately $2.7M in bribes to help facilitate the acceptance of multiple applicants over a six year period at Georgetown. Ernst has been placed on administrative leave according to this statement from Rhode Island. The full details of Ernst's case are at this link. The school website doesn't list any other coaches so I'm not sure who has taken over in the interim. Ernst appeared in court on Tuesday and was released on a $200,000 bond.
Full details on the entire case and all the charges brought against multiple individuals are linked here and there's plenty of other info out there all over the internet.
Sunday was a day of near upsets with a pair of top 5 men's teams narrowly avoiding a big loss on the road. Second-ranked Wake Forest, who was playing without Borna Gojo (playing Canada Challenger) got all it wanted and more from #49 UCF.
The Knights took the early lead with 6-2 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Wake senior and ITA #1 Petros Chrysochos evened the match at 1-1 with a straight set win at No. 1 and freshman Siddhant Banthia put the Deacs ahead with a straight set win at No. 6. UCF freshman Trey Hilderbrand tied it back up with a straight set win at No. 5 but Wake freshman Melios Efstathiou won a close 7-6, 7-5 match at No. 4. Both of the remaining matches went three sets with UCF freshman Bogdan Pavel finishing first with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 win at No. 3 which evened the match at 3-3. In the final match on court at No. 2, Wake sophomore Bar Botzer broke UCF sophomore Alan Rubio to go ahead 2-1 in the final frame and then he added one more break to clinch with a 6-7, 6-1, 6-3 win.
The semifinals are set in Chicago with the early matches providing plenty of excitement while the later matches were a pair of shutouts. It looked like No. 3 Wake Forest, the defending National Team Indoor Champions, were going to make an early exit but thanks to freshman Melios Efstathiou the Deacs lived to fight another day.
Wake found itself down 1-0 after the doubles point with UCLA picking up wins at No. 1 and No. 3 but the Deacs came back in singles with four opening sets (note: UCLA was without its No. 2 player Keegan Smith who injured his ankle the previous day). UCLA junior Ben Goldberg put the Bruins in front 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 5 but Wake senior Petros Chrysochos became the school's all-time wins leader in singles (120) with a 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 2. Wake evened it at 2-2 after sophomore Yuval Solomon won 6-2, 6-2 at No. 6 but UCLA senior Maxime Cressy put the Bruins back ahead after a 6-4, 7-5 win at No. 1. Wake sophomore Bar Botzer tied the match at 3-3 with a 6-4, 7-6 win at No. 3 which meant the match would be decided at No. 4.
UCLA freshman Mathew Tsolakyan dropped the opening set 6-3 but then he won 10 of the next 13 games to take a 3-6, 6-3, *4-1 lead against Wake freshman Melios Efstathiou. Tsolakyan had a game point for 5-1 but Efstathiou broke on the deciding point and then reeled off another three games to take a 5-4 lead. Efstathiou had three match points at 15/40 but Tsolakyan came back to hold for 5-5. Efstathiou held on the deciding point for 6-5 and then he broke from 15/40 to close it out 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
The opening day of the Men's National Team Indoor Championships in Chicago was a day of upsets and near-upsets as No. 2 Mississippi State and No. 4 Florida went down while No. 3 Wake Forest and No. 5 Texas survived and held on. The top seed Ohio State had no issues, North Carolina blanked a less than 100% Baylor, UCLA overcame the loss of one of its top players to get past Notre Dame, and Virginia surged past Stanford 4-2.
The day started off with the biggest upset by seeding as No. 15 TCU defeated No. 2 Mississippi State 4-1. The Horned Frogs overcame the loss of the doubles point after dropping the decider at No. 1 in a tiebreak 7-5 but they rebounded in singles and took all six opening sets. Unlike the match against Florida last Sunday, this time TCU was able to close out its courts in straight sets with Reese Stalder, Bertus Kruger, Luc Fomba, and Sander Jong winning at No. 3, No. 4, No. 5, and No. 6.
The opening day at the Women's National Team Indoors in Seattle turned into an extremely long day despite singles being played first in each of the eight round of 16 matches. Three of the first four matches were decided by a sudden death doubles point with the higher seeded team winning each of those matches. Due to the weather closing down the University of Washington at 3pm (pacific) the final match of the day between Stanford and LSU was shifted to the Seattle Tennis Club with the match not getting underway until 7:30pm (pacific) after initially having a 2pm start time.
The No. 3 seed Duke edged Ohio State 4-3 in the opening match at the Nordstrom Tennis Center. The Blue Devils got off to a great start in singles picking up five opening sets and they'd get lightning quick wins from Kaitlyn McCarthy and Ellyse Hamlin at No. 4 and No. 6 singles with the duo only dropping only two games total. Despite the big early deficit, the Buckeyes would withstand the storm and fight back to get splits on three of the other courts while adding a straight set win from Isabelle Boulais at No. 1. Kolie Allen actually gave OSU its first point with a 1-6, 6-4, 6-1 win at No. 3 and then after Boulais tied it at 2-2 Shiori Fukuda would put the Buckeyes in front with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 2. In the final singles match at No. 5, Duke's Margaryta Bilokin picked up a crucial break on the deciding point to go in front 5-4 in the third and then she'd serve it out to win 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.
The match-deciding doubles point saw three lopsided scores with Duke winning 6-1 at No. 2, Ohio State winning 6-1 at No. 1, and Duke's Kelly Chen and Meible Chi clinching the victory at No. 3 with a 6-2 win.