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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Washington's Slovic Shocks Levine; Cohen, Falcon Roll into Semis at NCAAs

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Athens, GA--

There were two things that college tennis fans could count on all week at the NCAA individual tournament: great weather and straight-set victories by Florida's Jesse Levine.

There was no change in the weather on Saturday, but Levine lost the fourth and fifth sets of his college career to Washington's Alex Slovic, the tournament's sixth alternate, ending a previously perfect freshman year with a 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 loss.

"I came here hoping to get in," said Slovic, a senior from Serbia, "and I was lucky enough to get in, so every match for me was a bonus." Slovic, ranked 64th coming into the tournament, needed six players ahead of him to withdraw from the competition, and exactly that number did, including his good friend and countryman Ivan Bjelica of Mississippi State. "I sent him a message asking what happened. He did me a favor."

Although Slovic was a late entrant, he is hardly an unknown in college tennis. He lost in the first round of the NCAAs last year, but he was a top eight seed in 2005. "This is my fourth time playing in the (NCAA) draw; it's not like I'm somebody who came out of nowhere," he said.

Slovic started quickly and didn't back off, taking a 2-0 lead, and throughout the set he moved forward and finished when he had the chance. Keeping Levine off balance is a near-impossible task, but Slovic's serve gave him chances for first-strike tennis and he took them.

In the second set, Levine came back, and few thought he'd lose the momentum once he'd evened the match, but Slovic continued to play relaxed and hit out on his shots.

"He was ripping," said Levine, seeded third. "He was on fire." One Slovic shot, a perfect forehand volley off a blistering pass from Levine had the Florida freshman looking up to his supporters and shrugging his shoulders in disbelief. "He came up with the goods at the clutch times. I was definitely not on top of my game today. I'm not making excuses, but I haven't played that bad in a long time. Maybe I let the nerves get to me a little bit, but that's just experience, and I'll learn from that."

So the much anticipated semifinal match between Isner and Levine will feature only Isner, who handled No. 5 Steven Moneke of Ohio State 6-3, 6-2 in less than an hour.

Another dominating performance was turned in by 2006 NCAA finalist Somdev Devvarman of Virginia. The second seed lost only six points in the first set against Tulsa's Arnau Brugues (6), and after dropping the first two games of the second set, reeled off six straight for a 6-0 6-2 decision.

Devvarman will face No. 4 seed Kevin Anderson of Illinois who survived a hard-hitting match with No. 5 Luigi D'Agord of Miami 6-4, 3-6, 6-4. At 4-4 in the third, D'Agord had break points but Anderson served his way out of trouble to put all the pressure on the right-hander from the Bahamas. At 4-5 15-15, D'Agord double faulted, and when Anderson threaded a perfect passing shot down the line, the South African had two match points. He only needed one, as D'Agord chipped in with another double fault to hand Anderson the match.

After all the excitement on the women's side on Friday, Saturday's contests were a bit of a letdown.

Top seed Audra Cohen decisively ended the run of Stanford freshman Lindsay Burdette 6-0, 6-2 to set up a rematch of the 2005 NCAA final in Athens against Zuzana Zemenova of Baylor. The unseeded Zemenova, who won that battle of freshmen, is looking forward to reliving that experience.

"I really like the atmosphere here," said Zemenova, who defeated unseeded Tracy Lin of UCLA 6-4, 6-7 (3), 6-4. "I like the courts and the people are very supportive."

No. 2 seed Megan Falcon wasn't taken off her game by the hometown fans, defeating Bulldog Natalie Frazier, the No. 7 seed, 6-4, 6-4. The sophomore, playing her first year of college tennis, outlasted the senior from Atlanta, whose fans outnumbered the Californian's by about 300 to 13.

"I knew with Nat playing at home, it was going to be a little tougher to stay calm," said the quick right-hander. "I think it's great that they're cheering for her."

Frazier, who had played the match of the tournament against Stanford's Theresa Logar in the round of 16, winning 7-6 in the third and saving match points in a hard-hitting marathon, refused to credit that as a factor in her loss.

"The long match yesterday isn't an excuse for losing," Frazier said of her last match as a Bulldog. "I wasn't tired at all today. That's tennis, to play a three-and-a-half hour match one day and come back the next day to play."

Falcon, the only semifinalist who hasn't played in an NCAA final, will face 2006 finalist Lindsey Nelson of USC in the lower-half semifinal. Nelson, the No. 4 seed, took out another local favorite, No. 6 seed Kristi Miller of Georgia Tech 6-3, 6-3.

The afternoon's doubles quarterfinals also produced some disappointed area fans, as the top-seeded team of John Isner and Luis Flores of Georgia were upset 7-5, 7-5 by No. 5 seeds Mariusz Adamski and Todd Paul of Wake Forest. Adamski and Paul had an unheard of three breaks against the 2006 ITA All-American and Indoor champions who did not return well when the Demon Deacons give them a few opportunities to get back in the match in the second set.

Adamski and Paul now have their shot at the 2006 NCAA champions from Illinois, fifth seeds Anderson and partner Ryan Rowe, who defeated No. 4 seed Danny Bryan and Colt Gaston of LSU 6-4, 6-4, getting a break at 4-5 in each set to earn their semifinal berth.

Another five seeded team, Marco Born and Andreas Siljestrom of Middle Tennessee State, upset the third-seeded team of Levine and Greg Ouellette of Florida 6-7(4), 6-4, 6-2.

"Their serves are a joke," said Levine of the 6-foot-9 inch pair. "I've never played them before, but I could just tell that these guys were going to be rough with their serves. We had a couple of break points, but they just came up with the goods every time."

The women's doubles went more to form, with top seeds Megan Moulton-Levy and Katarina Zoricic of William and Mary and second seeds Sara Anundsen and Jenna Long of North Carolina getting through in straight sets. The third seeded team of Ana Cetnik and Anna Sydorska of TCU also advanced as did the unseeded team of Ani Mijacica and Federica van Adrichem of Clemson. Mijacica and van Adrichem defeated Stanford's last entry in the individual tournament, Burdette and Anne Yelsey 6-3, 6-4. This is the first time since 1995 that Stanford has failed to contest a singles, doubles or team title in the NCAAs.

For complete results, see georgiadogs.com.


Austin said...

Thompson twins went quietly today. I watched their great match last night with the Cal duo and I don't recall them giving each other a high-five once, and again today they didnt seem to acknowledge each other. It was the complete opposite of Levine/Ouellette who pump each other up virtually every point. They are exciting to watch, especially both being lefties and each being a foot shorter than both of their opponents today. Maybe today's events have convinced Jessie Levine he needs one more year, would be interesting to watch next year if he comes back with all those incoming freshman.

Anonymous said...

Slovic said that he was going to attack Levine's serve because it wasn't strong and that's exactly what he did. It's also why he won the first and third sets. Normally Levine is quick enough to cover his serve but he was marginally off and Slovic was good enough to exploit the weakness.

Levine needs more time to build up his game and mature and going pro just wouldnt be the smart move. He also needs to work out that you can't say "I'm not making excuses" and then follow it up with a heap of excuses - "guy was ripping', 'I haven't played that badly in ages','their serves are a joke'.

Anonymous said...

Slovic , was obviously the underdog. He had nothing to lose. Levine has a lot to prove ! He is not the best player out there . A famous line in the movie Forrest Gump - " A box full of chocolate , you never know what you gonna get "

Austin said...


Do you know what the controversy was at 4-4, 15-30 in the second set of the Isner-Slovic match? I saw Slovic point to what looked like the crowd when he was complaining and he is still complaining about it. Isner went on to break him and serve for the second set. Thanks.

Colette Lewis said...

The crowd thought the sideline ball was out and said so during the point.

Anonymous said...

Someone is going to offer Levine a nice endorsement deal, which will be hard to pass up. Furthermore, I think he could do very well this summer on the pro circuit, which will give him the confidence he needs to turn pro.

Losing one match out of 25 doesn't mean you're not ready for professional tennis (if it does, then nobody in college is ready). It just means that you're not so dominant that you can have an off day and still beat good players.

It seems to me that going pro would be in the best interest of his tennis development. He can devote much more time to tennis, he can play more matches, and he can challenge himself against stronger competition. In college, for every match in which he's challenged, there will be six or seven in which he's not. That won't be the case if he goes pro. And he won't be overwhelmed, so I don't see much chance of his confidence being destroyed by repeated blowout losses.

But if he does go back to college, I'll understand. Florida will have an excellent team, and he may have a strong sense of unfinished business.