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Saturday, October 11, 2008

Venus and Nedovyesov To Decide All-American Title Sunday

©Colette Lewis 2008--
Tulsa, OK--

Top seed Olesksandr Nevdoyesov of Oklahoma State and unseeded Michael Venus of Louisiana State posted quarterfinal and semifinal victories on Saturday at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center, and will meet Sunday to determine the 2008 D'Novo All-American singles championship.

Nevdoyesov, a junior from Ukraine, defeated No. 16 seed Conor Pollock of Texas A & M 6-3, 6-3 in the quarterfinals on another sunny and warm day on the University of Tulsa campus, then pounded 2007 All-American finalist and No. 5 seed Robert Farah of Southern California 6-2, 6-1 to reach the finals.

Nedovyesov was down a set and a break in the second round against Bruno Agostinelli of Kentucky before pulling through when the Wildcat retired in the third set down 3-0, but he has been playing flawlessly since, getting better with each round.

Against Farah, Nedovyesov's power negated many of the options the USC junior usually has at his command, leading to a much different match score than the last time they played in the round of 16 of the 2008 NCAA team competition.

"At No. 1 singles I beat him in tough three sets, real tough," said Nedovyesov, of the team match that ultimately went to USC. "I beat him 6-4 in the third, so I knew he was a real tough opponent. I expected a really tough match, but I played, I don't know, my best match so far, so it was good for me."

Nedovyesov, the preseason No. 1, who is undefeated this fall, realizes he is now the target.

"Everyone gives maximum effort when they play against me, everyone wants to beat No. 1, so I have to stay confident and play tough the whole match," he said.

Venus is in a slightly different position, as he was ranked 20th in the preseason, and without benefit of a seed cruised through the draw until his quarterfinal match with Blake Strode of Arkansas, when he dropped the first set 6-1.

Venus had come from behind against Strode last spring in a dual match before taking a 6-7(5), 7-6(3), 6-3 decision from the Razorback senior then, but he had to get his forehand working Saturday morning to have any chance to repeat that result.

It did come around and he took the next two sets 6-3, 6-4 to earn a semifinal berth against unseeded Enrique Olivares of East Tennessee State. Olivares had outlasted qualifier Michael Shabaz of Virginia 6-7(1), 6-3, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, but after also dropping the opening set in a tiebreaker against Venus, the slight left-hander from Venezuela had nothing left for the second set, let alone the third.

"Playing Blake this morning we hit a lot of balls, we were out there for a long time, and I managed to just get through that one," said Venus. "And that's why I thought the first set out here in this match (with Olivares) would be key. Knowing you're down a set, with both of us playing three sets this morning, it was going to be a big task mentally."

Olivares, whose spins and speed are difficult to counteract no matter what the strategy, makes very few errors when he is on his game. But in the second set, the concentration and fire seemed lost, and Venus was able to crush forehands at will.

"At the end, he had gotten to the point where I felt, looking at him, he was a little mentally tired and maybe physically too," Venus said. "That helped me out, gave me a bit of energy too."

Venus and Nedovyesov have never played, but Venus is looking forward to his shot at top-ranked Cowboy.

"He's been pretty much cruising so far," said Venus, who is the first LSU player to make the All-American final. "I'll have to play well, but hopefully I can do it. It's pretty exciting."

In the doubles final, another Ole Miss team will take a shot at the All-American title that eluded them last year, when Erling Tveit and Jonas Berg lost to Virginia's Somdev Devvarman and Treat Huey. Berg will try this year with a new partner, Bram ten Berge, replacing the graduated Tveit, after the Rebel pair downed Texas Tech's Raony Carvalho and Christian Rojmar 6-1, 6-2.

Opposite Berg and ten Berge will be Tulsa's own Arnau Brugues and Phil Stevens, who defeated Clay Donato and Taylor Fogleman of North Carolina 7-5, 6-1. The Tar Heel team was serving for the first set at 5-4, but Brugues and Stevens took control at that juncture, winning four straight games before UNC evened the second set at 1-1. After that it was all Tulsa, sending the small but vocal crowd alongside court 1 home with smiles on their faces.

Stevens, a transfer from Farleigh-Dickinson University, and Brugues are a newly formed doubles team, but have clicked immediately. Brugues is attempting to add an All-American doubles title to the singles championship he earned as a sophomore in 2006.

For complete results, visit the ITA tournament website.