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Friday, May 26, 2006

Top Seed Cohen Bounced in Round of 16 at NCAA Women's Championships

©Colette Lewis 2006
Palo Alto CA--

It was a day of surprises at the Taube Tennis Center on Friday as women's top seed Audra Cohen and a slew of other favorites were ousted in the Round of 16.

Unseeded Lindsey Nelson of the University of Southern California had the sweatshirt-clad crowd riveted throughout her 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 victory over Miami's Cohen, the nation's second ranked player and the top seed in the tournament. Nelson used her power and deception to take control of the first set, with her two-handed forehand doing most of the damage. When Nelson took a 5-2 lead in the second set, Cohen seemed doomed, but just as she had in her previous match when down a set and a break, she dug deep and took the next five games. Nelson had three match points in that stretch, but converted none of them and she wasn't happy.

"It was heart-breaking, I was really disappointed in myself," said the sophomore who is a rail-thin collection of arms and legs. "I got nervous and tentative and it cost me."

Nelson and Cohen had played in the team semifinals on Monday, with the match tied in the third set and unfinished when Miami clinched the victory, so Nelson knew what to expect.

"She's very crafty, very tricky and tried to get me impatient, but I wanted to hit a million balls today. Going into the third, I knew I had to stay positive, because if I had gotten all mopey, she would have killed me 6-0," Nelson said, perhaps recalling that Cohen had done just that to her opponent on Thursday.

Nelson took a 5-1 lead in the third before Cohen regained some momentum, but it was too deep a hole this time, and the 2005 NCAA finalist joined 14 other women's seeds on the sidelines.

An unseeded finalist is guaranteed, as no seeds remain in the upper half of the draw. Nelson will play Celia Durkin from Stanford who upset Zuzana Cerna of Baylor, a nine seed 6-3, 6-2. Tatsiana Uvarova of Virginia Commonwealth is proving in her first five months of college tennis that she is a serious contender for the title, taking out third seed Daniela Bercek of Duke 6-2, 6-3. And, as predicted by Marcia Frost of collegeandjuniortennis.com yesterday, Megan Moulton-Levy of William & Mary shocked seventh seed and team tournament MVP Alice Barnes of Stanford 6-3, 6-3 and will face Uvarova on Saturday.

And if the Stanford fans weren't stunned by that result, they certainly were when two-time national champion Amber Liu fell to unseeded Riza Zalameda of UCLA 5-7, 6-2, 7-5. Despite the pro-Cardinal crowd, Zalameda was unfazed by the occasion and the loss of the extremely close first set seemed to give her confidence. By the end of the nearly three-hour long match, it was the graduating Liu who couldn't win the big points, while the sophomore Zalameda seized her opportunities. Zalameda will face another Pac-10 opponent in the quarterfinals, unseeded Suzi Babos of California-Berkley, who dismissed defending champion and fourth seed Zuzana Zemenova of Baylor 6-3, 6-4.

The only quarterfinal match featuring seeded players will have Stanford's Theresa Logar, a nine seed, against second seed Kristi Miller of Georgia Tech. Each had relatively easy victories on Friday, with Miller taking out nine seed Cristelle Grier 6-1, 6-1 and Logar eliminating fellow lefthander Amanda Fink, the sixth seed, from Southern California 6-0, 6-2.

The men's side actually has one quarterfinal match that follows the seeding, a Pac-10 confrontation between top seed Ben Kohlloeffel of UCLA and sixth seed Conor Niland of California-Berkley. Both breezed by their opponents on Friday: Kohlloeffel defeating Pierrick Ysern of San Diego 6-2, 6-1 and Niland taking out Callum Beale of Texas 6-2, 6-0.

Travis Helgeson of Texas, the eighth seed, also advanced in the upper half of the draw, taking out nine seed Ryler DeHeart of Illinois 6-2, 6-4. He will face unseed Erling Tveit of Mississippi who came back to defeat Adrians Zguns of Arkansas 2-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Clement Reix of Clemson claimed the biggest upset of the day in men's play as he dominated third seed Luigi D'Agord of Miami 6-2, 6-4. Reix, a junior from France, played very solid tennis and D'Agord looked alternately disgusted and disinterested.

"I was expecting a really tough match--he's a really big hitter--but my coach says that sometimes when you expect it to be tough, it's an easy job," he said quoting Clemson coach Chuck Kreise.

In the crucial ninth game, the third seed double-faulted to hand Reix the break, and then failed to apply any pressure when Reix was facing the always difficult task of serving out the match. Instead, D'Agord's unforced errors led to Reix holding at love to become the first Clemson player in 20 years to reach the quarterfinals.

His opponent will be Stanford's KC Corkery, who also downed a seed, taking out No. 7 Arnau Brugues of Tulsa 4-6, 6-2, 6-3. The unseeded Corkery got off to a fast start, leading 4-1 before losing the next five games, but in the second and third sets his serving improved and he controlled the net when Brugues didn't hit with depth.

Somdev Devvarman of Virginia, a nine seed, took out fifth seed Ludovic Walter of Duke 6-2, 6-3 and will face Sheeva Parbhu of Notre Dame, a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 winner over Roger Matalonga of Arizona. Devvarman is the only seeded player remaining in the lower half of the draw.

The doubles seeding has not held up any better, with only three seeded teams remaining among the final eight on the men's side. Pepperdine, at No. 2 and Illinois, at No. 3 are the favorites, although each had difficulty Friday. Andre Begemann and Scott Doerner of Pepperdine defeated last year's finalists Mark Growcott and Ken Skupski of LSU 7-6 (2), 7-6 (5), while Illinois' Anderson and Rowe had to come back from a break down in the third to beat Strahinja Bobusic and Colin Purcell of Georgia 6-4, 5-7, 6-4.

The top two seeds in the women's doubles advanced, with Alice Barnes of Stanford and Audra Cohen of Miami putting aside their disappointing singles losses earlier in the day to keep alive their dreams of a national title. Barnes and Anne Yelsey, the top seeds, once again dropped the first set, but came back to beat Helena Besovic and Ana Cetnik of Texas Christian 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Cohen and partner Melissa Applebaum, seeded second, took out Maryland's Marianne Baker and Ramona But 6-3, 6-4.

For complete draws, see Stanford's website.


Austin said...

This tournament, just like the past two years make you wonder why they even bother to seed for the singles and doubles. Especially when a semifinalist in the womens from last year is ranked in the 50's this year but back into the quarters after beating a two-time champ. Then last year's runner-up is ranked in the 40's this year, but just got spanked by the top seed, but not after beating a seed to start the tournament.