The Sweet 16 is almost set on the men's side with 15 of the 16 spots filled on Saturday (Texas A&M/Oklahoma to play on Sunday) while 8 women's teams punched their tickets as well with the other 8 to come on Sunday.
Since the field was expanded to 64 teams in 1999, in each subsequent year there has always been at least one men's national seed that has failed to advance out of its own regional and thanks to the Cal Bears, 2019 will be no different. The Pac-12 Tournament Runner-Ups knocked off Drake in the opening round on Friday and then on Saturday they got past No. 15 Illinois 4-1.
Illinois looked like it was position to take the early lead after taking No. 1 doubles 6-3 but Cal managed to win both No. 2 and No. 3 in tiebreaks to claim 1-0 lead.
Cal used the momentum from the doubles point and took four opening sets in singles. While Illinois managed to get a 7-5, 5-2 ret. win by Aleks Kovacevic at No. 1, Cal would get straight set wins from Jack Molloy, Ben Draper, and Bjorn Hoffman at No. 2, No. 4, and No. 6 with Draper's 6-4, 7-5 win the clincher. Cal's Jacob Brumm also had a commanding lead at No. 5 in a match that went unfinished.
Next up for the Bears will be a trip to Austin to face No. 2 Texas who overcame the loss of the doubles point to defeat South Florida 4-1.
The opening day of the 2019 NCAA Tournament was plagued by rain at many sites but despite the delays most of the matches went according to plan with all the national seeds in action advancing though in the 2 vs. 3 matches (I know they don't refer to them that way anymore but I will) there were several close ones. All 16 men's sites were supposed to complete their first round matches on Friday but rain wiped out play in College Station at the indoor-less Texas A&M Regional so they'll play on Saturday and Sunday. 7 of the 16 women's sites played on Friday with the matches in Stillwater being played indoors while Kansas and Denver started outdoors but moved indoors in Lawrence.
I'll start off with the closest women's matches of the day which took place in Stillwater and Nashville.
The NCAA released the Division 1 men's and women's brackets on Monday evening with very few surprises. As it was a year ago, geography playing a major role in deciding who went where with some regionals much tougher than others while a few were much weaker than others. On the men's side, Columbia, which is the No. 16 national seed, will welcome in Monmouth, Bryant, and Penn State which in the past would have been a 4, 4, and 3 regional seed. Baylor and TCU have the toughest regionals in terms of ranking with both welcoming in teams that would have had regional seedings of 2, 3, and 3.
On the women's side Kansas (No. 14) has the toughest draw with Denver, Florida, and Boston College coming to town which would have been a 2, 3, and 3 regional seed. Kansas and Denver met in last year's NCAA first round in Malibu with Kansas winning a close 4-3 match.
If all the host teams were to advance this is what the Super Regionals would look like the weekend after next.
All the conference tournaments have been completed and now we wait to see who will be selected to participate in this year's NCAA Championships. The committee will announce its selections at 6 pm and 6:30 pm eastern tonight with the men announced first and the women second. I listed all the automatic qualifiers down below and you can check out College Tennis Ranks and Slam.Tennis for their projections.The singles and doubles selections will be made on Tuesday.
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.
Semifinal Saturday in the major conference tournaments brought us one huge surprise as the SEC men's host and top seed Florida was stunned by Tennessee 4-3. The Gators were riding a 15-match winning streak but Tennessee seized the early momentum after rolling through the doubles point with a 6-1 win at No. 1 and a 6-3 win at No. 2. Florida rebounded quickly in singles with Oliver Crawford, Alfredo Perez, and Duarte Vale winning in straight sets at No. 1, No. 5, and No. 6 to put the Gators in front 3-1. Tennessee countered with a straight set win by Scott Jones at No. 3 but things looked grim for the Vols when Luca Wiedenmann trailed Andy Andrade 5-3 in the third at No. 4. However the Volunteer junior would hold for 4-5, break from 30/40 for 5-5, hold for 6-5, and then break from 15/40 to win 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
The deciding match at No. 2 between Tennessee sophomore Adam Walton and Florida freshman Sam Riffice went back and forth in the final set with several breaks being exchanged. Riffice broke Walton to go up 3-1 however Walton would break back and hold for 3-3. Walton broke again to go up 5-4 but Riffice would break back for 5-5. Walton broke for 6-5 and then he served it out from 40/15 to win it 1-6, 6-3, 7-5.
I've been traveling a lot over the last week due to a death in the family so I'm hoping to be back in the swing of things with tennis on Friday. I do have my conference tournament pages updated with all brackets and current results plus I have my live scoring page fully updated as well. Slam.Tennis has a ton of useful information as well including an interactive scoreboard and brackets so make sure you keep that open in a separate tab.
A trio of top 15 matches highlighted the mid-week slate with the TCU men, Pepperdine women, and Duke women all coming through with wins.
TCU earned a hard fought 4-3 win at home over No. 8 Texas A&M. The Horned Frogs won a pivotal doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 2 and then each team took three opening sets in singles. Texas A&M's Valentin Vacherot tied it up with a straight set win at No. 3 but TCU made it 3-1 with a three-set win from Luc Fomba at No. 5 and a straight set win from Sander Jong at No. 6. Texas A&M's Barnaby Smith made it 3-2 with a 4-6, 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 4 and Juan Carlos Aguilar tied it up with a 7-6, 7-5 win at No. 2. TCU senior Alex Rybakov won the decider on senior night with a 7-6, 6-7, 6-3 win over Hady Habib.
Utah and No. 12 Stanford had met 37 times headed into Sunday's men's match in Salt Lake City and despite some recent close encounters the Utes had only tasted victory once with that coming over 30 years ago. Stanford's top player Axel Geller did not play, despite suiting up on Thursday against Cal Poly, so the Cardinal had to make some adjustments to both their doubles and singles lineup and Utah rose to the occasion on senior day with its departing trio each playing a role in the 4-2 upset win.
Utah senior David Micevski and junior Slava Shainyan were the first off the court in doubles with a 6-3 win at No. 1 over Stanford's usual No 2 team of Jack Barber and William Genesen. Moments later Stanford's Sameer Kumar, who normally teams with Geller at No. 1, and Sangeet Sridhar won 6-4 at No. 2 doubles to make the match at No. 3 the decider.
Utah senior Joe Woolley and sophomore Russell Benkaim would win that decider in a tiebreak 7-2 over Alexandre Rotsaert and Timothy Sah with the Stanford pair in their usual spot at No. 3.
In singles each team would take three opening sets with Utah claiming the top three while Stanford took the bottom three.
Utah senior Dan Little made it 2-0 after rolling in his final match at home with an impressive 6-3, 6-2 win over Rotsaert at No. 1 however Stanford was closing in on wins on the bottom three courts.
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.