©Colette Lewis 2008--
The weather was so beautiful, with the autumn colors at their peak in the surrounding hillsides, it seemed almost perverse to be playing tennis indoors Thursday. But inside the Boars Head Sports Club, where the University of Virginia men and women play home matches, the competitors were oblivious to the stunning scenery and were instead focused on getting through the first round at the ITA Indoor.
When we arrived mid-afternoon, the first round of doubles had been completed, and all nine courts (three are reserved for practice) had singles action going. I caught the third set of seventh-seeded Justin Kronauge's 2-6, 6-1, 6-4 win over Bassam Beidas of Pepperdine. Momentum went the Ohio State junior's way at the beginning of the final set, but Beidas won three straight games to go up a break at 4-3, and seemed to be in control, only to see Kronauge reel off the next three games.
On the adjacent court, No. 4 seed Alex Clayton also appeared to have the match in hand, leading Brett Helgeson of Notre Dame 5-2 in the third set. But Helgeson pulled off one of his patented comebacks (click here for the account of his heroics in the All-American last month), winning the final five games to take a 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-5 win. Clayton was the only seeded player on the men's side to fall, but there were six three-setters and two matches that were decided in a third set tiebreaker.
All-American winner Michael Venus of LSU won one of them, taking out Clancy Shields of Boise State 7-6(6), 3-6, 7-6(6) in a match that lasted nearly three hours and thirty minutes, which must be some kind of a record for an indoor match. Venus led 5-2 in the third set but hung on after Shields mounted a spirited comeback. Nate Schnugg of Georgia and Enrique Olivares of East Tennessee State also went the distance, with Olivares taking a 2-6, 7-6(2), 7-6(3) decision.
On the women's side there were fewer three-setters, but more upsets, with Georgia Tech's NCAA champion Amanda McDowell, the No. 3 seed, losing to TCU's Nina Munch-Soegaard 6-3, 6-4. Northwestern's Georgia Rose, the No. 7 seed, lost to Cal's Claire Ilcinkas by the same score. The last match of the day, or rather night, as it ended at 8:30 p.m., saw Clemson freshman Josipa Bek outlast No. 8 seed Melanie Gloria of Fresno State 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4. Bek impressed me, not just with her game, which features pace and the ability to finish at the net, but with her attitude. Even when she failed to serve out the match at 5-3, hindered by an unfortunate overrule by the chair umpire that put the score at 15-30 instead of 30-15, her body language continued to be positive and aggressive. She broke Gloria in the next game with confident shotmaking, and will certainly be more widely known by May's NCAAs.
Although the match finished before I arrived, All-American champion Kelcy McKenna of Arizona State dropped a 6-2 7-6(5) decision to No. 2 seed and 2007 Indoor finalist Ani Mijacika of Clemson.
With draws of only 32, it's hard to view any result as too much of an upset, and that was also true in doubles, where the top two women's seeds lost. Fresno State's Gloria and Tinesta Rowe, seeded No. 1, lost to Kristy Frilling and Kelcy Tefft of Notre Dame 8-3. No. 2 seeds Amanda Granson and Melissa Mang of Duke were beaten by Nanar Airapetian and Anouk Tigu of Arkansas 8-3.
Texas A & M's Austin Krajicek and Conor Pollock, the No. 2 seeds, lost to Virginia's Houston Barrick and Sanam Singh 9-7, and No. 3 seeds Jamie Hunt and Schnugg of Georgia lost to Arnau Brugues and Phil Stevens of Tulsa 8-5.
For complete results, see the ITA tournament site.
Thursday, November 6, 2008