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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.
Former Virginia Tech Hokie Sebastien Jacques is making his way across the country, by foot, after not being able to walk across a room just a few years ago. Jacques played at Virginia Tech from 2007 to 2010 but during his senior year he had to quit playing due to a lack of energy. After graduating with a degree in marketing he returned home to Magog, Canada, and after seeing several doctor he was eventually diagnosed with a pineal cystic tumor in his brain which was the cause of the energy drain. The doctors in Canada determined the procedure was too risky and the health care system wouldn't cover the cost so Jacques ended up raising $80000 and had the surgery performed in California. The surgery was a success and Jacques returned to a normal life but he decided to embark on the cross-country walk to show people that it is possible to overcome obstacles in life. Virginia Tech had a write-up on Jacques a few days ago plus there are plenty of details on his website.
The NCAA Division II Men's Championship has reached the semifinals with #1 West Florida advancing after a 5-0 win over #4 Hawaii Pacific. UWF's top player, #4 Alex Peyrot, played doubles but sat out in singles which was interesting because in the round of 16 its #2 player, Gabriel Dias, did the same thing. Next up for UWF will be #23 Southwest Baptist after the Bearcats held off #16 Ferris State 5-4 with Raul Cabalero winning the deciding match 6-2, 4-6, 7-6(1) at #4 singles. The other semifinal match will be between #2 Barry and #3 Columbus State. Barry cruised past #18 Drury 5-1 with the Bucs taking two of three in doubles and winning every completed set in singles. Columbus State ran through #14 Azusa Pacific 5-1 with the Cougars sweeping all three doubles courts (count as a point each) and then getting two straight set wins at #3 and #4. APU got its lone point when Oliver Frank, D2s top ranked player, cruised to a 6-1, 6-3 win at #1.
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Virginia won its 12th ACC Tournament Championship by defeating the top seed and top ranked team in the country Wake Forest 4-3. The Cavaliers came into the match having lost two straight against Wake Forest after the Demon Deacons beat them in last year's ACC Championship and then earlier this year in Winston-Salem. Virginia jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after picking up doubles wins at No. 2 and No. 3. UVA's No. 2 team of Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard broke for 5-3 and then served it out for 6-3 while its No. 3 team of Collin Altamirano and JC Aragone clinched the point by breaking to win 6-4.
Virginia came out strong in singles and took four opening sets but Wake Forest's Petros Chrysochos put the next point on the board with a 6-2, 6-4 win over Alexander Ritschard at No. 1. The match didn't stay tied for long because UVA senior Thai-Son Kwiatkowski closed out Borna Gojo 6-4, 6-4 and a little while later junior Collin Altamirano made it 3-1 after defeating Dennis Uspensky 6-3, 6-4. Wake trimmed the deficit to 3-2 after Alan Gadjiev got past Henrik Wiersholm 6-4, 6-3 and then the Deacs would force third sets on each of the remaining courts.
USC won its third Pac-12 Tournament Championship with a thrilling 4-3 win over crosstown rival UCLA. The Trojans jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after winning the deciding doubles match in a tiebreak and then they tacked on four first sets in singles. UCLA junior Martin Redlicki tied the match at 1-1 with a straight set win at No. 2 but USC retook the lead after Logan Smith won 7-5, 6-1 at No. 3. Thibault Forget made it 3-1 after a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 3 but UCLA wasn't ready to go away. Maxime Cressy pulled out a 7-6, 6-4 win at No. 6 and Logan Staggs came back from a set down to win 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 at No. 4. The match came down to a deciding third set at No. 1 between USC freshman Brandon Holt and UCLA senior Gage Brymer. While Holt was holding comfortably, everyone of Brymer's service games was a battle. Brymer held on the no-ad point in three consecutive service game including when he fell behind 15/40 while serving at 3-4. Holt held for 5-4 and then after going up 0/40 he'd break Brymer from 30/40 to clinch the championship.
Third-ranked Virginia had its seniors on display on Thursday against No. 18 Georgia Tech and In front of a senior-day crowd of just under 1000 the Cavs rolled to a 6-1 win. Virginia took the early 1-0 lead after Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard broke Georgia Tech to close out a 6-4 win at No. 2. The singles portion of the match was pretty lopsided with Alexander Ritschard, Collin Altamirano, Carl Soderlund, and Henrik Wiersholm each only yielding five total games. Thai-Son Kwiatkowski won the closest match of the day 7-6, 7-6 over ITA No. 5 Chris Eubanks at No. 1 while Georgia Tech scratched out a point with a 6-3, 7-6 win by Daniel Yun at No. 6.
Virginia has four seniors on the team (Kwiatkowski, Ritschard, Aragone, Luca Corinteli) that have each played a huge role in the Cavaliers winning three national titles in the last four seasons. Virginia did a write-up on the senior class and went through each player's accolades - you can check that out at this link, and here are some match highlights from CBS 19, and here are some additional quotes from the Daily Progress.
Prior to Sunday, it'd been 16 years since Oklahoma State had last defeated a top 3 team but that's exactly what they did on Sunday afternoon in Waco. Third-ranked Baylor jumped on Oklahoma State in doubles and picked up a pair of 6-2 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 to take the early 1-0 lead. Oklahoma State got back in the match by taking four opening sets in singles and Lukas Finzelberg would tie the match up with a quick 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 6. Baylor answered with straight set wins from Max Tchoutakian and Johannes Schretter at No. 2 and No. 3 to go in front 3-1. Oklahoma State's Artur Dubinski followed with a straight set win at No. 4 and then Julian Cash won in three sets at No. 1 to even the match at 3-3.
As Cash was closing out his match, Oklahoma State's Tristan Meraut and Baylor Jimmy Bendeck were headed to a second set tiebreak at No. 5 with Meraut having taken the first set. Meraut led the tiebreak 4-2 at the changeover and he would pull away and close it out 7-3 with Bendeck double faulting on the match point.
What a night of tennis it was in Winston-Salem as top-ranked Wake Forest fought through the wind and a tough as nails opponent to defeat previously undefeated No. 3 Virginia 5-2. The match was originally scheduled to start at 4 p.m. ET but due to a late shower the start was delayed two and a half hours until 6:30 p.m. Once play began both teams had to fight through windy conditions and as the sun dropped so did the temperature.
Virginia got off to a quick start at No. 3 doubles with JC Aragone and Collin Altamirano holding on a no-ad point and then breaking on a no-ad point to go up 2-0. Wake's Petros Chrysochos and Dennis Uspensky would break back back on a no-ad point and then hold on another no-ad point for 2-2. After an exchange of holds, Wake would break the Aragone serve at love to go up 4-3. Chrysochos would hold from 40/30 to make it 5-3 and then Wake broke the Altamirano serve from 30/40 to win it 6-3.
Virginia also went up an early break at No. 2 doubles when Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and Alexander Ritschard broke the Alan Gadjiev serve from 30/40 to put Virginia in front 3-2. Gadjiev and Borna Gojo would put it back on serve at 4-4 when they broke the Ritschard serve from 30/40 on a point that ended with Gadjiev putting a volley away right on top of the net. Virginia claimed that Gadjiev's racquet came over the net on the final volley but the chair disagreed and the break stood. If you watch the clip just as the point ends Wake also breaks on 3 so that 25 seconds was a big sequence for the Deacs. After Gadjiev held from 40-15 for 5-4, Kwiatkowski fought off a match point on the no-ad point when the chair overruled Wake's out call on the serve. The match would end up going unfinished with Wake leading 6-5.
What a match it was!! The final of the 2017 Men's ITA National Team Indoor Championships had it all from a controversial ending to the doubles point, to someone getting a game penalty for a racquet smash, to guys coming back from multiple breaks down, and to finally having JC Aragone fight off a match point to clinch the championship in a third set tiebreak. So let's start with the doubles point which was expected to be highly competitive and it was on a few courts but most definitely was not at No. 1. Virginia's Luca Corinteli and Carl Soderlund had yet to pick up a win during the tournament, because Virginia had already clinched elsewhere, but they made sure to get one today and it would only take 20 minutes to blank Mikael Torpegaard and Herkko Pollanen 6-0.
Ohio State's No. 2 team of Martin Joyce and Hugo Di Feo broke Alex Ritschard's 1-1 service game but Ritschard and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski broke back from 30/40 when a Joyce backhand volley sailed wide. Joyce and Di Feo had a pair of break points on Kwiatkowski's 2-2 service game but two well placed serves by Kwiatkowski resulted in Ritschard finishing both points at the net with an overhead winner to get the hold for 3-2. After a couple of quick holds, Di Feo went up 40/0 on his 3-4 service game but Virginia took the next three points to bring up the no-ad point. Ohio State got the hold for 4-4 when Joyce hit an overhead winner and then the Buckeyes duo broke Kwiatkowski's serve from 15/40 to go up 5-4. Virginia broke Joyce from 15/40 to even at 5-all but Ohio State broke right back when Ritschard double faulted from 30/40 so now Hugo Di Feo would try to serve it out.