Friday was an action-packed day of tennis across the country with a pair of top 7 women's teams going down while Baylor, Alabama, and a pair of Georgia schools were the big winners on the men's side.
We'll start in the Battle for LA as No. 32 USC upset crosstown rival No. 5 UCLA 4-1. The non-conference match, which was televised on the Pac-12 Network, saw the Women of Troy jump out to the early 1-0 lead after claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 1 and No. 3. USC kept things rolling along in singles and claimed four opening sets. UCLA evened the match at 1-1 with a straight set win by Jada Hart at No. 1 but USC remained in control elsewhere and would add straight set wins from Angela Kulikov, Rianna Valdes, and Becca Weissmann at No. 2, No. 3, and No. 5 with Kulikov clinching at No. 2.
Over the last few days both the ITA and USTA released their weekly rankings. There wasn't much movement in the USTA/Tennis Channel Top 25 however in the Oracle ITA Top 50 there were several changes. Last week's ITA rankings used each team's four best wins but this week's rankings used each team's five best wins so that extra data point accounted for some of the movement. The North Carolina women took over the top spot from undefeated Georgia who just defeated them just two weeks ago in the finals of the National Team Indoors. UNC got a ranking bump by having wins over last week's #3 Duke, #5 UCLA, #7 Vanderbilt, #13 Oklahoma State, and #23 NC State. Georgia's five best wins used in this week's rankings were over #2 UNC, #4 Stanford, #7 Vanderbilt, #23 NC State, and #31 Georgia Tech so that fifth win (#23 vs. #31) was where UNC made up the difference in points.
The USTA Men's Top 25 didn't have any movement in the top 9 though last week's No. 10 UCLA dropped to No. 14 after a loss to USC. The USTA Women's Top 25 didn't have any movement in the top 13 and the other sizable movement in the top 25 was UCF entering at No. 24 while Florida, which lost to UCF, fell from No. 18 to No. 25.
I have the side-by-side tables of both the men and women down below so you can see where the biggest differences are at.
A Tennis Channel national audience, along with 1200 fans in the stands at the USTA National Campus, witnessed UCF knocking off ITA No. 48/USTA No. 18 Florida for the first time in school history with a thrilling 4-3 win. The Knights dropped the doubles point and then in singles each team claimed three opening sets. UCF won the first two matches to finish with Natalia Serrano and Rebeka Stolmar winning in straight sets at No. 3 and No. 5 but Florida's Victor Emma evened it up with a straight set win at No. 4. UCF's Ksenia Kuznetsova put the Knights in front 3-2 with a 6-2, 7-6 win at No. 2 but Florida's No. 1 Ida Jarlskog countered with a 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 win at the top of the lineup.
The match would be decided in a third set at No. 6 between UCF redshirt freshman Nandini Sharma and Florida freshman Anastasia Kharitonov. Kharitonov served for the match up 5-4 in the third but Sharma would break, hold, and break again to set off a wild celebration.
The big top 10 showdown on Saturday took place at Stanford with the No. 4 Cardinal hosting No. 7 Vanderbilt in a rematch of last year's NCAA Championship Final. Stanford won that match in Winston-Salem 4-3 with some final court drama but this one on Saturday at Stanford was a pretty cut and dry win for the Cardinal. Stanford rolled through doubles only dropping two games each at No. 1 and No. 3 and then they added five first sets in singles with four of them being lopsided 6-1 scores. Melissa Lord made it 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 win over at No. 2 and Emma Higuchi made it 3-0 with a 6-1, 7-6 win at No. 6. Emily Arthbuthnott provided the clincher at No. 4 with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-1 win.
The other matches were played out with Stanford adding two more points with wins at No. 5 and No. 3 while Vandy got its lone point at No. 1 after Fernanda Contreras fought off multiple match points to win a third set supertiebreak 14-12.
USC avoided its second three-match losing streak of this young season after knocking off crosstown rival No. 14 UCLA 4-1 in a non-conference tilt at USC's Marks Stadium. USC struck first by claiming the doubles point with wins at No. 2 and No. 3 and then the Trojans added four opening sets in singles. USC freshman Jake Sands cruised to a 6-0, 6-3 win at No. 6 but UCLA freshman Govind Nanda answered with a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 2. USC senior Logan Smith, who was only playing in his second dual-match of the year, rolled to a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 3 and junior Riley Smith clinched at No. 4 with a 6-1, 7-6(3) win. Both teams were playing without their No. 2 singles players (Keegan Smith & Daniel Cukierman).
USC will have two weeks off before starting Pac-12 play at Utah while UCLA returns to action on Tuesday at home against Grand Canyon.
Wednesday was rankings release day with both the ITA and USTA releases its latest rankings. Up until this point all the ITA team rankings have been done by committee but starting with this week and going forward the computers take so that's why we saw a bunch of swings in this week's rankings versus prior weeks. The computer rankings used each team's four best wins while deducting points for losses so that's why we had a few notable teams not show up in the top 50 (Georgia/Texas A&M).
As expected Ohio State is the new men's No. 1 after running the table at the National Team Indoors while Wake Forest comes in at No. 2. Virginia made one of the bigger upward moves from 13 to 4 while Illinois came up from 14 to 8. Oregon made a jump from unranked to 15 while LSU and Penn also made nice jumps into the top 25 after being unranked.
There wasn't much change in the top 4 on the women's side, since most teams were idle last week, however there was plenty of move down below 4. Some of the teams that fell the most were Pepperdine from 6 to 20, Michigan from 13 to 27, and Florida from 24 to 48. The teams that rose the most were Washington State going from unranked to 15, Florida State from 20 to 12, and Old Dominion from unranked to No. 19.
The latest USTA Top 25 didn't have any changes at the No. 1 spot, since Ohio State moved up to No. 1 the week prior on the men's side, with Georgia remaining at No. 1 on the women's side. On the men's side some notable increases were Wake Forest from 5 to 2, TCU from 15 to 7, and Columbia from 14 to 9. Mississippi State fell 10 spots from 2 to 12 after a less than successful weekend in Chicago and Florida dropped 5 spots from 8 to 3 after also coming up short in Chicago.
Many of the top women's programs were idle last week so the changes weren't too noticeable in the top 20 aside from Pepperdine falling from 7 to 13 after they lost to Cal who has gone from unranked to 20.
Ohio State capped off a tremendous week in Chicago by knocking off defending champion Wake Forest 4-2 to win the program's second Men's National Team Indoor Championship. Ohio State got off to a quick start at No. 2 doubles as the ITA No. 7 ranked team of Kyle Seelig and Alex Kobelt cruised to a 6-1 win. Wake Forest was fairing much better elsewhere with break leads late in the match at both No. 1 and No. 3 however despite winning 6-3 at No. 1 they'd be unable to close the door at No. 3. Ohio State's Hunter Tubert and John McNally fought off a match point to break on the deciding point for 4-5 and then they fought off another match point to hold on the deciding point for 5-5. After a pair of holds, Tubert and McNally would fall behind 3-2* in the tiebreak but would go on to take the next five points to win it 7-3.
Ohio State came out strong in singles and took four of six opening sets. Buckeye junior JJ Wolf quickly made it 2-0 with a 6-0, 6-3 win at No. 1 and shortly thereafter redshirt junior Alex Kobelt made it 3-0 with a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 5. Ohio State had set and break leads at both No. 2 and No. 4 plus Hunter Tubert was about to get a split at No. 6 so it looked like it was just a matter of time before the shutout was complete however Wake Forest showed its resiliency and came charging back.
Wake sophomore Bar Botzer put the Deacs on the board with a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 3 and freshman Siddhant Banthia came back from 3-1 down in the third set to defeat Hunter Tubert 6-2, 2-6, 6-3. Over at No. 2, Petros Chrysochos came back from 3-4* down to force a third set against John McNally and at No. 4 Wake freshman Melios Efstathiou erased a 2-4 second set deficit to take a 5-4 lead against Martin Joyce. If Efstathiou would have been able to force a third set the tension would have been unbelievable but Joyce came back with a hold, a break, and then after falling behind 0/30 he'd take the next four points to close it out 7-5, 7-5.
For the third year in a row Ohio State and Wake Forest will meet in a meaningful match. Ohio State leads the all-time series 5-3 and has won five of the last six; of course the most important of those six came last year when Wake won 4-2 in the finals of the NCAA Championships. The other recent meeting of importance came two years ago in the semifinals of the National Team Indoors when Ohio State's Mikael Torpegaard came back from 0-3 down in the third to edge Petros Chrysochos 7-6, 5-7, 7-6(4).
Ohio State has yet to give up a point during the tournament and in singles they've only dropped five sets. JJ Wolf and Hunter Tubert are the only Buckeyes that have recorded wins in each of their three matches while Kyle Seelig is the only one that has yet to finish a match. Petros Chrysochos and Bar Botzer are both 3-0 this week for the Deacs with their other four projected starters each 1-1.
Ohio State has put out the same singles lineup in each match thus far while Wake has mixed it up at the bottom of the lineup with Julian Zlobinsky and Siddhant Banthia each starting once. Wake's Rrezart Cungu played in the first two matches but sat against UNC so it'll be interesting to see if he is in at No. 5 to play Alex Kobelt. It's also possible that Ty Tucker could make a change to his lineup and sit Kobelt while sliding in James Trotter at No. 5 but that seems unlikely because all of Kobelt's matches have been very competitive.
In doubles Ohio State has played the same teams at No. 1 and No. 3 while making a change at No. 2 after the Virginia match. In the opening two matches Alex Kobelt teamed with James Trotter (1 loss and 1 unfinished) at No. 2 but for the Texas match he teamed with Kyle Seelig and they won 6-2.
Wake Forest played the same doubles lineup in its first two matches but against North Carolina they changed things up some with Borna Gojo coming into the fold. Against UNC, Gojo played at No. 1 with Alan Gadjiev which slid Petros Chrysochos and Bar Botzer down to No. 2, and Julian Zlobinsky (Gadjiev's partner from the first two matches) teamed up Siddhant Banthia at No. 3. Further down below I have the singles and doubles results for each player from this weekend's matches.
It'll be No. 1 vs. No. 3 in the finals of the ITA Men's National Team Indoor Championships after top seed Ohio State blew past Texas 4-0 while Wake Forest fought its way past North Carolina 4-2. For the third match in a row Wake Forest found itself in a precarious position, after falling behind on several courts, but the defending NCAA and NTI champs found its way through to the finals.
Wake welcomed Borna Gojo back to the doubles lineup and his return helped spark a close win in the deciding court. Wake's Bar Botzer and Petros Chrysochos were first off the court with a 6-3 win at No 2 but UNC's Mac Kiger and Simon Soendergaard answered with a tiebreak win at No. 3. The UNC duo trailed 6-4 in the tiebreak but won the final four points to take it 8-6. In the decider at No. 1, Gojo and Alan Gadjiev fought off a pair of break points while serving at 5-5 and then they went on to cruise through the tiebreak winning by a 7-2 score.
Each team would win three opening sets in singles but the first two matches to finish would both go UNC's way. Tar Heel freshman Brian Cernoch rolled to a 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 4 and senior Bo Boyden came back from 1-4 down in the first to win 7-6, 6-2 at No. 6.
The Tar Heels had the lead at 2-1 plus they had all the momentum on each of the four remaining courts. William Blumberg was up 3-0 in the third on Borna Gojo at No. 1, Ben Sigouin was up 5-2 in the second on Petros Chrysochos at No. 2, Josh Peck was up 6-3, 4-4 on Bar Botzer at No. 3, and Simon Soendergaard was serving for the second set at No. 5. Wake needed to turn three of the four matches back in its favor and slowly over a 10 minute period they'd do just that.
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.