The two biggest upsets of the day on Friday took place between Alabama and Kentucky. The Kentucky men clawed past ITA #17/USTA #24 Alabama 5-2 in Lexington. The Wildcats took the doubles point with a 6-2 win at No. 2 and a 6-3 win at No. 3 and then won the first four singles matches to finish with the wins at No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 coming in straight sets.
"We had a big team meeting last week about the standards and the culture that we had to set heading into the SEC season," said Kentucky volunteer assistant coach Mark Goldberg. "I think this was a big one, protecting our home, setting our standards high. We came out, took care of our business, and we protected our home."
The Alabama women welcomed #18 Kentucky to Tuscaloosa and rolled to a 4-1 win. The Tide took the doubles point and added straight set wins at No. 2, No. 4 and No. 6 while Kentucky scratched out a win at No. 5.
"We kept fighting all night and it led to a big confidence boost for us, we need to use that momentum," head coach Jenny Mainz stated. "We know what we're capable of accomplishing and previously had not been able to turn the corner and we said we just need that one to get over the hump. It was a big win for us tonight."
Thursday night brought us a pair of close matches in the SEC with Texas A&M and Tennessee pulling out hard fought 4-3 wins. In College Station, Texas A&M fell behind after dropping the doubles point but the Aggies rallied with four opening sets in singles. Juan Carlos Aguilar tied the match at 1-1 with a 6-0, 6-1 rout at No. 1 but Georgia's Jan Zielinski put the Bulldogs back in front with a 7-6, 6-3 win at No. 2. Texas A&M's Valentin Vacherot evened the match at 2-2 after a 7-6, 6-3 win at No. 3 but Georgia was still leading on two of the remaining courts with the third about to split sets.
Texas A&M freshman Noah Schachter came back from a break down in the third set, while also fighting off multiple breaks himself, to win 6-4, 3-6, 7-6(5). Schachter trailed Georgia junior Robert Loeb 3-1 in the third set but after holding and breaking for 3-3 he'd come back from 30/40 down to hold for 4-3. After a hold by Loeb, Schachter once again came back from 30/40 down to hold for 5-4. After a few more holds Loeb would go up 2-0 in the tiebreak but it'd be 3-3 at the changeover. Schachter went up 6-4 and after being denied on his first match point he'd close it out on the next one after the chair overruled Loeb's out call on the far sideline.
Georgia freshman Phillip Henning evened the match at 3-3 with a 5-7, 7-6, 6-2 win at No. 4. Henning led the opening set 5-3 but dropped the final four games and in the second set he also led 5-3 but after dropping three straight he came back to take it in a tiebreak. Henning went up an early break in the third and broke at love to close it out.
Texas A&M's other freshman Guido Marson was nearing the finish line at No. 6 after opening up a 5-1 lead in the third set against Georgia senior Walker Duncan. 35 minutes earlier it looked like Duncan was headed for a straight set win but a missed swinging forehand volley at 6-4, *4-2 (40/40) was a turning point that got Marson back in it. Marson came back to take the second set 7-5 and after leading 5-1 it looked like he was moments away from the clinch. However Duncan would reel off three straight games which included a break of Marson's 5-2 service game on the 40/40 point. Duncan looked like he was going to get it back on serve after going up 30/40 but after coming to the net he laid off hitting a volley on a Marson backhand, since it looked like it might sail long, however the shot landed in which brought up the deciding point. Duncan would net a forehand on the deciding point to give Marson and Texas A&M the 4-3 win.
Wednesday afternoon brought us a top 3 showdown on the women's side with North Carolina hosting rival Duke. The Tar Heels, ranked No. 1 by the ITA and No. 2 by the USTA, jumped out to the early 1-0 lead on #3/#4 Duke after rolling to 6-2 win at both No. 1 and No. 3 doubles. UNC added four opening sets in singles however the first match to finish came at No. 6 with Duke's Ellyse Hamlin winning convincingly 6-0, 6-1. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils that'd be the only point they'd muster because UNC's Sara Daavettila would make it 2-1 with a 6-4, 6-0 win at No. 3 and Cameron Morra would up the lead to 3-1 with a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 4.
UNC senior Jessie Aney would close it out at No. 5, in the only match to go three sets, with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.
Sunday was an exciting day with several close matches coming down to the wire and many of them took place in the Southeast. Texas A&M (NR/#24) isn't accustomed to being unranked in the ITA rankings at this point in the season but after Sunday's win at #20/#25 Alabama the Aggies will be back in the ITA Top 50 by Tuesday.
The Aggies jumped out to the early 1-0 lead with doubles wins at No. 1 and No. 2 and then the teams split opening sets in singles. Texas A&M's Valentin Vacherot extended the lead to 2-0 with a straight set win at No. 3 but Alabama answered with straight set wins from Mazen Osama and Jeremy Gschwendtner at No. 1 and No. 6.
Texas A&M went back in front 3-2 after a 6-1, 3-6, 6-0 win by Barnaby Smith at No. 4 but Alabama had the leads on both of the remaining courts. Crimson Tide sophomore Riccardo Roberto evened the match with a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 win at No. 5 and junior Edson Ortiz led 4-1 in the third against Texas A&M sophomore Hady Habib. Habib rallied to win four straight to take a 5-4 lead but then got broke serving for the match and Ortiz followed that up with a hold for 6-5. Habib went down 15/40 on his next service game but fought off all three match points to force a tiebreak and then after dropping the first two points he'd win the last seven to close it out. Texas A&M improved to 15-0 all-time against Alabama.
There wasn't a huge schedule on Saturday and it was made even smaller courtesy of the rain. The highly anticipated top 10 women's showdown between Texas and Stanford was washed out as were matches between Arizona/UCSB (M), Cal Poly/Santa Clara (M), UCSB/Cal (W), the Pacific Coast Doubles Championships, and just about every other match scheduled in the state of California.
There was a unique match on Saturday in Houston between No. 45 Denver and Minnesota. Both teams were led by a Thompson with Christian the head coach of Denver and her twin sister Catrina the head coach of Minnesota. Christian's Pioneers won the match 6-1 after taking the doubles point and 10 of 13 sets in singles. Both schools had a preview of the family matchup earlier in the week with Denver's here and Minnesota's at this link.
The USTA/Tennis Channel women's top ranked team, Georgia, had little trouble on Saturday in Knoxville with the Bulldogs cruising to a 4-0 win. The Dawgs took the doubles point and then grabbed three quick straight set wins while also leading on two other courts.
The Texas Tech women, ranked #23, won the most competitive match of the day with a 4-3 win over TCU. The Red Raiders dropped the doubles point and four first sets in singles but came back from 3-1 down with Felicity Maltby winning the decider at No. 1 singles 3-6, 6-2, 7-6(6).
In other women's action #48 Princeton edged Maryland 4-3 with the Tigers only having five healthy players. Princeton forfeited No. 3 doubles, and ended up losing the doubles point, and also forfeited No. 6 singles though they managed to sweep the top four spots.
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.