©Colette Lewis 2006
Before Arnau Brugues even went to the net to shake hands in his 7-6 (5), 6-4 win over top seed John Isner of Georgia, he dropped his racquet and sprinted to the courtside seats to embrace his coach Vince Westbrook. The joyous hug celebrating Tulsa's first national championship in tennis wasn't lengthy because Isner, the All-American defending champion, was waiting to offer his congratulations to the home town hero.
"It's like a dream," said the junior from Barcelona. "At the beginning of the draw on the first day, I just wanted to win some matches because I was playing at home, but I never thought I was going to win. I'm so happy right now."
Brugues' local fan base gave him a lift throughout the match, especially in the eighth game of the first set, when the lefthander saved three break points with forehand winners. Chants of "T U" rose regularly, and twice the Tulsa supporters behind the court were cautioned by the chair umpire for being disruptive during points.
"They were yelling like every single point, come on Tulsa. They never let you down. It helps a lot. And the other guy, I think it bothers him."
Isner's coach, Manny Diaz had another explanation for his player's loss.
"He just didn't serve well. I can't remember the last time he served that badly, but everyone is entitled to an off-day. Brugues played well."
Isner's serve was especially shaky in the tiebreak when he doublefaulted at 4-4 and on set point.
"He has a really good serve you know, and it takes a little bit to get used to it," said Brugues. "At the end of the first set I made more returns, and he started to force more, and I think that was the key."
Westbrook, in his 15th season as Tulsa's men's tennis coach, agreed.
"John's got the best serve in college tennis. He can get rolling and push you off the court. Our strategy was to hold the baseline, get a return in, run every ball down and make him earn it. When it got down to the tiebreaker, there was so much pressure on his [Isner's] serve, that it broke down a little bit."
Brugues didn't get a break point until the match's final game. With Isner serving at 4-5, 30-40, he saved a match point serve-and-volleying on a second serve, but a forehand error gave Brugues a second one. Again, Isner failed to get a first serve in, and couldn't handle the return, giving Brugues and Tulsa their first national championship.
Although Brugues has lost only four times since transferring from the University of Barcelona last fall, he still seemed shocked at his success.
"Today I played with no pressure," said Brugues, whose parents traveled from Barcelona for the tournament. "I thought the other guy was better than me, and I just tried to have fun. And it worked."
Sunday, October 8, 2006