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.
The three top matches on Saturday each finished with lopsided results as the Texas men, Stanford women, and Michigan women rolled to wins over top 25 conference opponents.
Fourth-ranked Texas improved to 20-2 and snapped a four-match losing streak against No. 10 TCU with a 6-1 win. After TCU finished up its senior day activities, which celebrated the careers of Alex Rybakov and Reese Stalder, the Horned Frogs claimed the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2. Texas regrouped in singles and took five opening sets with Yuya Ito and Leo Telles winning in straight sets at No. 2 and No. 3 to give Texas a 2-1 lead. TCU battled back to force several third sets but ultimately the Horns would win them all with Christian Sigsgaard clinching at No. 1 with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Alex Rybakov.
Texas finishes conference play next weekend with road matches at Oklahoma State and Oklahoma. TCU will have to regroup quickly with No. 8 Texas A&M coming to town on Monday and then the Horned Frogs make the same trip that Texas makes to Stillwater and Norman.
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.
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.
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.
Wake Forest and Texas had played a lot of close matches over the past three years (four 4-3 matches) but on Saturday afternoon in Austin there wouldn't be any suspense as the third ranked Demon Deacons would run over the eighth ranked Longhorns 4-0. The ITA top ranked doubles team of Skander Mansouri and Christian Seraphim jumped out to an early 3-0 lead at No. 1 and they'd make the break lead hold up and take it 6-3. Texas's Harrison Scott and Julian Zlobinsky jumped out an early 2-0 lead at No. 2 against Borna Gojo and Alan Gadjiev but the Wake duo would break back on the no-ad point to make it 2-1. After a Wake hold for 2-2, Texas held on the no-ad point for 3-2. The next break opportunity would come when Texas served at 4-4 but they managed to hold on the no-ad point for 5-4. Wake held for 5-5, broke from 30/40 for 6-5, and then they held on the no-ad point to win 7-5 which gave the Deacs the early 1-0 lead. The match at No. 3 doubles saw a lot of break opportunities but neither team could convert and it'd go unfinished with Wake Forest serving at 5-6.
The opening day of the 2017 ITA Kick-Off Weekend is in the books with several close matches but nothing that really qualifies as an upset. The day got started in Athens where Washington and Alabama went toe-to-toe for just under four hours. When you look at the box score below you'll probably wonder how it lasted that long and the reason is because Georgia's indoor facility only has four courts so the final two singles matches couldn't start until courts became available. Alabama jumped out to the early 1-0 lead after claiming the doubles point with a 6-2 win at No. 1 and a 7-6(4) win at No. 2 while No. 3 went unfinished with it tied at 6-6 in the tiebreak.
Each team would claim two opening sets in singles (remember four courts in play) with Washington getting the upper hand at No. 1 and No. 2 while Alabama took leads at No. 3 and No. 4. Washington's Enzo Sommer was first off the court with a 6-4, 6-3 win at No. 2 and a short while later Mitch Stewart would make it 2-1 with a 6-3, 7-6(0) win at No. 1. Washington's Gal Halak forced a third set at No. 3 and it looked like Jake Douglas would do the same at No. 4 when he led Alexey Nesterov 5-3. Nesterov held for 4-5 and then broke for 5-5 but Douglas broke back to give himself a second opportunity to serve the set out. Nesterov broke again to send it to a tiebreak and he would ultimately close it out 7-5, 7-6(5). Nesterov's win didn't actually tie it up because during his tiebreak Washington's Gal Halak closed out Spencer Richey 7-0 in the third set tiebreak so now the score was 3-2.
It didn't take long to have our first dual-match that was decided by the final court but that's what happened on Thursday night in Tulsa inside The Case. Tulsa, which hosted last year's NCAA Championships, jumped out to a 3-0 lead on the defending Missouri Valley Conference Champs Wichita State after rallying to take the doubles point and picking up straight set wins from Majed Kilani and Daniel Santos at No. 2 and No. 6. During the doubles point the Shockers got a quick win at No. 1 and led 4-0 at No. 3 but the Golden Hurricane rallied with six straight points to take it 6-4. The doubles decider came at No. 2 with Tulsa's Kilani and Ram-Harel breaking Wichita State's 4-4 service game and then holding to clinch the doubles point with a 6-4 win.
Dartmouth came out and won a tight doubles point by winning 7-5 at both 1 and 3 while SMU took #2 doubles 6-4. In singles, Dartmouth took the opening set on 5 of 6 courts and was able to pick up wins from Brendan Tannenbaum, Dovydas Sakinis, and Ciro Riccardi. At the time of the clinch Dartmouth's Max Schmidt was a game away up 5-2 in the 3rd.
|Turpin Stadium at SMU Tennis Complex|
FYI, the number beside the player's school is the player's Universal Tennis Rating as of March 24th. For more details about UTR check out their website.
Despite the win by Ram-Harel it looked like it was going to be all for naught because Cal's Florian Lakat and J.T. Nishimura had taken their respective second sets at #2 and #6 and were up breaks deep in the third set as well.
|Mitchell Pritchard (Pic from Tulsa)|
Note: Pritchard's win over Nishimura was a Universal Tennis Rating upset since Nishimura's UTR was 1.04 higher than Pritchard's UTR.
"Cal. is going to be the favorite in the northern part of the Pac-12, and they are one of the best teams in the country," said Westbrook. "Ram-Harel goes out and beats the No. 3 player in the country, and Bautista goes out and beats the No. 30 player in the country. Our three and four spots weren't very good, but I don't think that our freshmen have played in an environment like this. Our doubles was awesome, and it came down to our upperclassmen. I think that we are at about 60% or 70% of what we can do, but it's going to be a puzzle putting the pieces together against the right opponents. "
"We have to do a better job of being disciplined, Cal head coach Peter Wright said. "Today we let some great opportunities get away from us, and tip your hat to Tulsa. They played well at the end of the matches.
Louisville got off to a slow start at home against Troy by dropping the doubles point but they turned up the heat in singles and picked up straight set wins at #2, #4, #5, and #6 to win it going away 4-1. Troy's #1 Hassan Ndayishimiye (13.94) didn't play in this one but from looking at the scores I'm not sure it would have made a difference.
The final match of the night was a classic - #54 UC Santa Barbara went up to the Emerald City and knocked off #62 Washington 4-3. Now this definitely isn't considered an upset by ranking but there were many, me included, that thought Washington would pull through at home.
|Nathan Eshmade (Pic from UCSB)|
Quotes from UCSB's recap
"We've really prepared for this season and the guys played some great tennis today," Head Coach Marty Davis said. "It was a great win for the Gauchos."
Quotes from Washington's Matt Anger via UW's recap
"I take my hat off to their guy, Eshmade there at second singles, said Anger. "In that third set he played lights out tennis and he deserved to win. No complaining on my side other than I would have liked to have gotten that last point.
"There were opportunities all night long for both teams, added Anger. "We played good there at second doubles but losing that tie-breaker at first doubles 8-6, then Gal's second set tiebreaker. You get one of those two and we are winning a match.
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