For the first time in school history the Texas Longhorns are the NCAA Men's National Champions after the No. 2 seed defeated the defending NCAA Champs Wake Forest 4-1.
It was a wild year in Austin that saw longtime head coach Michael Center get dismissed after his involvement in the big admissions scandal and then a month later the program achieved a No. 1 national ranking for the first time in program history. The upperclassmen-laden roster stuck together during the tough times and despite a somewhat surprising loss in the Big XII Tournament to Baylor they hit their peak during the NCAA Tournament and ran over one tough opponent after another.
Sunday's final didn't start off on the best note for the Horns after they dropped the doubles point for the first time since the second round against South Florida.
Wake Forest had dropped the doubles point in four consecutive matches so they made a change at No. 3 and replaced Sid Banthia's usual partner, Melios Efstathiou, with Julian Zlobinsky. Banthia and Zlobinsky hadn't played together since late March and Texas's Chih Chi Huang and Yuya Ito would pounce early and break for 2-1. Huang and Ito extended the lead to 5-1 and would go on to win 6-2.
Wake's Bar Botzer and Petros Chrysochos jumped out to a 3-0 lead against Colin Markes and Leo Telles at No. 2 and it'd be all holds the rest of the way with Wake winning 6-3.
The deciding match at No. 1 saw six straight holds to start the match until Wake's Alan Gadjiev and Borna Gojo broke Harrison Scott's serve on the deciding point to take a 4-3 lead. Gadjiev held for 5-3 and then Scott's partner Christian Sigsgaard held for 4-5. Gojo would serve it out at love to give Wake the 6-4 win.
Championship Sunday is upon us with No. 2 Texas taking on No. 4 Wake Forest in the men's final while No. 1 Georgia plays No. 3 Stanford in the women's final.
Wake Forest will be seeking its second consecutive championship while Texas is looking for its first. Stanford will also be seeking its second consecutive championship and 20th overall while Georgia hopes to win its third.
For the fourth straight day the weather forecast calls for plenty of sunshine and temperatures in the upper 80s so unless something unexpected happens this will be the first time in recent memory that none of the matches at the finals site were effected by wet weather.
Let's take one final dive into the numbers to see who has the edge in each championship match.
After four months of dual-match action we're finally down to the final two after a great day of tennis on Saturday.
The opening match of the day saw No. 2 Texas come through in the clutch to win a close doubles point and then after jumping No. 3 Florida in singles the Longhorns held on to win 4-2.
In doubles, Texas jumped out to early break leads at both No. 1 and No. 3 while Florida went up an early break at No. 2 but all three matches would simultaneously find their way back to 3-3. Texas's Christian Sigsgaard and Harrison Scott took the next three games to defeat Johannes Ingildsen and McClain Kessler 6-3 at No. 1. Over at No. 3 doubles, Florida's Duarte Vale and Andres Andrade would have two match points on Texas's 5-6 service game but Chih Chi Huang and Yuya Ito came back to hold and then they ran away in the tiebreak to clinch the doubles point with a 7-1 tiebreak win. The match at No. 2 went unfinished with Texas serving 5-6 (40/40) after just fighting off a match point at 30/40.
Texas used the momentum from the doubles point and really jumped on Florida in singles by going up breaks on all six courts. Florida would come back in a few spots but Texas ended up with four first sets while Florida snagged two.
Texas junior Yuya Ito would make it 2-0 after quickly disposing of Sam Riffice 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. It was Ito's fifth straight win and 17th win in his last 19 matches.
Texas senior Rodrigo Banzer was off the court next at No. 6 singles after a 6-2, 6-4 win over McClain Kessler. The difference in this match was the 40-all deciding points with Banzer going a perfect 7 for 7 which of course meant Kessler went 0 for 7.
Semifinal Saturday is less than 24 hours away with Wake Forest and North Carolina set to meet for the third time in the last three months while Texas and Florida will meet for the first time in over two years. Both matches are expected to be extremely close with the UTRs of most individual matchups almost identical.
The heat and humidity played a role in Thursday's matches and will likely be a factor again on Saturday with temps expected to be in the upper 80s. Both Wake Forest and North Carolina were on the court for 3 hours on Thursday, though the Heels played under the lights, while Texas and Florida were both off the court in just over 2 hours so neither team in either matchup will really have much of a rest advantage.
Let's get to it and take a look at the numbers.
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 first day of Super Regional play brought us a few good matches and a few shutouts but they all ended with the home team coming out on top. The two closest matches of the day took place on the West Coast with Stanford edging Big XII Champion Kansas 4-3 while Pepperdine fought off a scrappy UCF team 4-2.
Stanford won its 20th straight match and advanced to the Elite 8 for the 10th year in a row but it was far from easy. The Cardinal found themselves in a 1-0 hole after Kansas won the doubles point for the 25th time in 26 matches with a 6-2 win at No. 2 and a 6-3 win at No. 3.
Each team claimed three opening sets in singles with three of the matches finishing in straight sets while the other three went the distance.
Stanford seniors Melissa Lord and Caroline Lampl gave the Cardinal the lead at 2-1 after Lord won 6-2, 7-5 at No. 2 singles while Lampl stayed perfect in dual-match play (21-0) with a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 3.
Kansas's Maria Toran Ribes tied it at 2-2 with a 7-5, 6-4 win at No. 6 singles. Ribes's opponent Niluka Madurawe was playing in just her fifth dual-match of the season with Stanford's usual No. 6 Emma Higuchi out for unknown reason.
Stanford would go back in front after Emily Arbuthnott completed her comeback with a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 4 singles but Kansas's Anastasia Rychagova knotted it up at 3-3 with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 win at No. 1.
By the time Rychagova closed out Michaela Gordon at No. 1, Stanford's Janice Shin was nearing the finish line in the decider at No. 5. Shin dropped the opening set 6-4 but she'd come back to take the final two sets 6-4, 6-2 to send the Cardinal to Lake Nona where they'll meet No. 6 Pepperdine on Friday.
Championship Sunday brought us several good matches with some decided in third set tiebreaks while others weren't as close as we thought they'd be. The two matches pitting the highest ranked teams took place in Cary (NC) as No. 4 Wake Forest met No. 5 Virginia while No. 2 Texas and No. 8 Baylor rumbled in Lawrence (KS).
Wake and Virginia split regular season meetings with each winning at home so Sunday's rubber match was expected to be close. The doubles portion of the dual was definitely close however many of the singles matches had lopsided finals. Wake wrapped up No. 2 doubles with a 6-3 win and they served for the match at No. 3 up 6-5 however Virginia would break back and Gianni Ross and William Woodall would go on to win the tiebreak 7-3. The decider at No. 1 doubles also went to a tiebreak with UVA's Brandon Nakashima and Henrik Wiersholm jumping out to a 4-1 lead en route to winning it 7-5.
Wake fought back in singles and claimed four opening sets of which they'd ultimately close them all out in straight sets.
Virginia's Aswin Lizen put the Hoos up 2-0 with a 6-4, 6-0 win at No. 6 but Wake followed suit with fairly quick wins by Melios Efstathiou (6-3, 6-1) at No. 5, Rrezart Cungu (6-2, 6-2) at No. 4, and Borna Gojo (6-4, 6-2) at No. 1.
Wake had a 3-2 lead but Virginia's Brandon Nakashima was closing in on a win at No. 2 leading Wake's Petros Chrysochos 7-6, 5-1 while Henrik Wiersholm was nearing a split at No. 3 after taking a 5-1 lead in the second set tiebreak against Bar Botzer. However both Chrysochos and Botzer would fight back with Chrysochos winning five straight games to take a 6-5 lead while Botzer took seven of the next eight points to close out Wiersholm 7-5, 7-6(6) to clinch the championship.
Wake Forest defeated North Carolina for the second time in the last five weeks with a 5-2 victory at home in Winston-Salem. North Carolina got off to a promising start after taking the doubles point and adding a straight set win from Mac Kiger at No. 6 but Wake tied it up at 2-2 with straight set wins from Petros Chrysochos and Rrezart Cungu at No. 2 and No. 5. The three remaining matches went three sets with Wake taking them all. Borna Gojo won 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 to make it 3-2, Bar Botzer got the clincher with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win at No. 3, and to close out the day Melios Efstathiou won 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-4 at No. 4.
The Winston-Salem Journal has a good recap of the match with quotes from Tony Bresky, Sam Paul, Borna Gojo, and Bar Botzer so make sure you give it a read.
Wake Forest now has a two game lead in the ACC over North Carolina and Virginia while Miami is just one game back however the Canes still have to play both Wake and UVA.
Wednesday had a pretty solid schedule on the men's side with five matches between top 50 teams including a pair between top 15 teams. Fourth-ranked Florida improved to 13-2 with a dominating 6-1 win at home over #13/#16 Illinois. The Gators grabbed the early lead with 6-3 wins at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles and then in singles they won five opening sets. Sam Riffice, Andy Andrade, Johannes Ingildsen, and McClain Kessler won in straight sets at 2, 3, 4, and 5 while Duarte Vale came back from a set down to win in three sets at 6. Illinois picked up its lone point from Aleks Kovacevic who came back from a set down to win 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1 singles over Oliver Crawford.
The other top 15 matchup between #10/#7 TCU and #12/#10 Columbia saw TCU win a close doubles point and then take all six opening sets in singles before Columbia fought back to force third sets on five courts. The Horned Frogs claimed the doubles point by winning the decider at No. 1 in a tiebreak (7-5) and senior Alex Rybakov rolled to a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 1 over #16 Jack Lin. Columbia cut the deficit to 2-1 after a 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 win by Austen Huang at No. 6 but TCU would close it out with a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win by Reese Stalder at No. 3 and a 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 win by Alastair Gray at No. 2. The other two matches went unfinished with TCU a game away from a win at No. 4 while Columbia was a game away at No. 5.