©Colette Lewis 2008--
Ann Arbor, MI--
The importance of the doubles point in college tennis can be debated, and each side got ammunition for its argument in the first round of the NCAA team championships at the University of Michigan. Michigan lost the point, but went on to defeat Western Michigan University 4-1, while Texas Tech took the doubles point from Harvard without much of a struggle, but had to hold on for dear life before earning a 4-2 win.
Michigan and Western were first on the Wolverine courts on an ideal day for tennis--sunny, with only a slight breeze and temperatures in the 60s. This is a rivalry with a subtext, as many of the Bronco players are from southeastern Michigan and aspired to play for the Maize and Blue. WMU junior Kevin Hayward, who is from Ann Arbor, had an especially vocal cheering section, and the fans were evenly divided between those who made the 90 mile drive from Kalamazoo, and the Michigan faithful. Both schools are out for the summer, so the student contingent was small.
Michigan owned a 7-0 win over Western Michigan earlier this season, but there were seven tiebreakers played in it, with the Wolverines sweeping them all, so Michigan was unlikely to be looking past the Broncos. When the doubles began, Western fell behind early at No. 1 doubles, but was up a break at Nos. 2 and 3. Wolverines Matko Maravic and Andrew Mazlin held on for an 8-6 win over Alex Birchmeier (Midland, Mich.) and Bryan Norville (Farmington Hills, Mich.) at No. 1, but Western evened the score at No. 2 with Hayward and Casey Cullen (Beverly Hills, Mich.) downing Jason Jung and Mike Sroczynski 8-6. So all attention turned to No. 3 doubles, where Michigan's Chris Madden and George Navas had pulled even against Michael Calderone (Grass Lake, Mich.) and Kazuya Komada. Madden and Navas had two match points with Calderone serving at 6-7, but didn't convert, and when Madden was broken in the subsequent game, Komada had a chance to serve it out at 8-7. He couldn't do it, with Madden punching the winning volley at 30-40 with all four players at the net to send the match to a tiebreaker. In it, service winners alternated with double faults at the start, but Western prevailed by a final score of 9-8 (3).
In singles, freshman Madden redeemed himself quickly, taking the first set from Norville at No. 5 singles. At No. 1, Maravic gave Michigan another first set over Hayward, but Western soon owned two first sets as well, with Birchmeier over Jung at No. 2 and Komada over Sroczynski at No. 4. That was as close as the Broncos would get however, as Maravic and Madden finished for a 2-1 Michigan lead, Navas took out Calderone at No. 6 for 3-1, and Mazlin clinched it with a straight set win over Alejandro Staub at No. 3. (For complete scores, see mgoblue.com).
Texas Tech overwhelmed Harvard in a very quick doubles point, taking control and Nos. 2 & 3 and efficiently completing the task. Ilya Babinciuc gave the Red Raiders a 2-0 lead with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Harvard's Sasha Ermakov at No. 4, but Harvard freshman Alexei Chijoff-Evans put this team on the board with a victory by the same score over Christian Rojmar of Texas Tech. Chijoff-Evans shouted "Now we have a match" as he made his way to the net for the handshake, and he was right. Although shortly after that comment Tech's Bojan Szumanski dropped Ashwin Kumar at No. 1 to give the Raiders a 3-1 cushion, it wasn't over. Harvard had taken the first set in two other matches and at No. 2, Harvard's Chris Clayton and Tech's Sinisa Markovic were barely into their second set, after Markovic had won the first in a tiebreaker. When Harvard's Aba Omodele-Lucien won a second set tiebreaker against Milos Kustudija, the Crimson had their second point.
With Raider Lenoir Ramos taking the second set to split with Dan Nguyen at No. 3, the focus shifted back to Clayton and Markovic. Deuce games were the rule rather than the exception, but as close as they were, there weren't any breaks in the second set, with Clayton facing the pressure of serving from behind. Serving at 3-4, Clayton remarkably held at love, but at 4-5, he faced a match point at 30-40. Markovic, a big left-hander who takes running around his forehand to a whole new level, couldn't end it there, and Clayton had three chances with his ad to even the set. But Markovic kept hitting forehands, and when the junior from Bosnia finally earned a second match point, he cracked a winner (I'll let you guess from which side) to put Tech in the final against the Wolverines.
For the complete scores of Texas Tech's 4-2 win over Harvard, click here.
The weather forecast for Sunday is miserable, with a temperatures in the low 50s and an 80% chance of rain, so the probability of indoor tennis is high. That's a much more appealing prospect to Michigan than to Texas Tech.
For complete results from the men's Division 1 action today, see ncaa.com. For the final 16 heading to Tulsa on the women's side, click here.
Saturday, May 10, 2008