©Colette Lewis 2006
Georgia's John Isner, the 2005 All-American singles champion and top seed in this year's tournament, will attempt to win his 12th consecutive match at the Michael Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa Sunday morning. Standing in his path is fifth seed Arnau Brugues of Tulsa, a rookie in All-American play.
Neither has lost a set in their previous five matches, and the final promises an intriguing contrast between the dominating serve of Isner and the speed and groundstroke power of Brugues. "I'm going to hold serve a lot," said Isner of his first match against Brugues. "It puts a lot of pressure on my opponent. I think I have a good shot tomorrow."
On a cool and breezy Saturday morning, Isner defeated big Kevin Anderson of Illinois, a nine seed, in the quarterfinals 7-5, 6-3 then followed that win with a 6-2, 7-6 (5) victory over 2006 NCAA finalist Somdev Devvarman of Virginia, the fourth seed.
"I served very well today," said the 6-foot-9 inch senior of his performance in the semifinals, "and I tried to dictate the play when he was serving. His second serve probably isn't the best part of his game."
Isner didn't drop his serve until he was serving for the match at 5-3 in the second. Down 0-40, he saved two break points by serving and volleying, but Devvarman earned his only break of the match when Isner couldn't handle a Devvarman pass. Isner could be heard berating himself immediately after the break, pronouncing it "the worst game ever," and after the match, he still hadn't forgotten it.
"I got my break in the second, then gave it right back, which is very unusual," the native of Greensboro, N.C. said. "I don't do that much, but I was fortunate to get through the tiebreaker."
Brugues, a junior from Barcelona, Spain has taken college tennis by storm since transferring from the University of Barcelona to Tulsa last fall. He reached the Round of 16 at the NCAAs in May, earning All-American honors, and finished the season ranked tenth.
In his quarterfinal match with Ryan Rowe of Illinois, Brugues breezed through the first six games before Rowe recovered in the second set. Down a break and a point from being down 5-2, Brugues reversed his fortunes, won three straight games and five of the next six to earn the victory.
Against nine seed Luis Flores of Georgia in the semifinal, Brugues again got an early break, but the lefthander from Mexico forced a tiebreak when Brugues was unable to serve out the set at 5-4, doublefaulting on break point.
But the blazingly fast Brugues raised his game in the tiebreak and never stalled again, using the high decibel support of his teammates to get through the tight spots in second set. Shouts of "Arnau" and rhythmic clapping from their end alternated with Brugues' own fist-clenching "Vamos" cries throughout both of his Saturday matches.
"They were all here cheering me," said Brugues, who admitted their energy was important to his win. "It's great to have them. It was a tough match, he was a good player, sure, but it was tough playing all week. I'm tired," said the 5-foot-11 lefthander of his five singles matches in three days.
Isner, who, unlike last year is playing doubles, has played even more tennis than Brugues, but he and partner Flores advanced to doubles final Sunday afternoon without taking the court. Markus Dickhardt and Chris Groh were to be their opponents in the semifinals, but Groh, a semifinalist in the consolation singles, pulled a stomach muscle and was unable to compete.
After the singles final Sunday morning, Isner and Flores, a five seed, will meet the fourth seeded team of Brian Hung and Matko Maravic of Michigan. Hung and Maravic once again overwhelmed their opponents, this time pinning an 8-4 loss on unseeded James Cluskey and Ken Skupski of Louisiana State.
For full draws, see the ITA website.
Saturday, October 7, 2006