©Colette Lewis 2008--
It's rare that teammates play each other for the National Indoor title and rarer still to have a repeat of a previous year's final, but both will occur Sunday at the Boar's Head Sports Club.
Seventh seed Justin Kronauge and eighth seed Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State will contest the first teammate vs. teammate final since 1989, when Michigan's Malivai Washington downed Dan Goldberg for the title. Kronauge had the bigger challenge in Saturday's semifinals, defeating No. 6 seed Arnau Brugues of Tulsa 6-4, 6-2, while Koniecko received a walkover when No. 3 seed Daniel Vallverdu was unable to take the court due to a shoulder injury.
Kronauge, a junior and Brugues, a senior, each held to 4-4 in the first set. Brugues was having more difficulty holding, but was able to serve his way out of several tough spots until the ninth game, when Kronauge broke on his third chance with a forehand winner. Brugues slammed his racquet and was given a point penalty, and after Kronauge won the second point serving at 5-4, Brugues smacked a ball into the back curtain with such force that the sound reverberated throughout the building. The chair umpire gave him a game penalty for ball abuse, and Kronauge didn't need to win those final two points to secure the first set.
"I don't know what to say about that," Kronauge said of the incident. "But I came out and hit the ball, didn't start off slow like I do sometimes. I played well the entire match and I was proud of the way I played."
Brugues won the first game of the second set, but Kronauge broke him in the third game and again in the seventh game to earn his spot in the final.
2003 Indoor Champion Jeremy Wurtzman, now an assistant at his alma mater, was seated on court in Kronauge's match, but he'll have no role in Sunday's final, when Koniecko and Kronauge will reprise the regional final, won by Koniecko 7-6, 2-6, 6-3.
"We play together everyday, and it's always tough to play a teammate," said Koniecko. "But it's great for Ohio State, we've got two guys in the final, and I don't know how often that happens."
Asked what he needed to do to beat Koniecko this time, Kronauge joked, "I know what room he's in so I give him a couple of calls tonight. But Bryan's a great player, hits that flat ball, and we had a great match last time we played, so hopefully we can both play well again."
The women's final Sunday is deja vu all over again, with 2007 Indoor champion Aurelija Miseviciute of Arkansas facing 2007 finalist Ani Mijacika of Clemson, the first time that the same women have played back-to-back finals in the tournament's history, which dates back to 1984.
Miseviciute, the No. 1 seed, downed unseeded Nina Munch-Soegaard of TCU 6-4, 6-1, using her depth and consistency to wear down the junior from Amarillo, Texas.
"She was like a surprise player--I'd never seen her before, so I didn't know anything about her," said Miseviciute, a senior. "She had good matches in the beginning, beat McDowell in the first round, so I was really curious to see. It was a really good match, she has a really good game, so I was happy with the way I played."
Miseviciute acknowledged that she was facing additional pressure as the defending champion.
"Obviously before the tournament you always have high expectations, especially since last year I was the winner," she said. "Everybody saying, you're defending your title and all that. But we decided before the tournament to concentrate on your tennis, concentrate on your game, take one match at a time and see what happens, and that's what I was trying to do. Every match, from the first one until today, I thought I was playing a little bit better, so that worked out well. It's exciting."
Last year's final went to Miseviciute in a third set tiebreaker, so there is no clear advantage for the champion.
"I hope it will go my way this time," said the second seeded Mijacika, after subduing No. 4 seed Maria Mosolova of Northwestern 7-6(7), 6-4. "She's a great player and it will be a fun match to play. I know her now, we know each other's game styles, and serving will be really important."
Mijacika may have gained confidence with her performance against Mosolova, as she was able to elevate her level of play at the most important times. She saved two set points in the first set tiebreaker and pegged a forehand winner to convert on her first opportunity. The second set appeared to be heading for another tiebreaker, when at 4-4, Mijacika took a 0-40 lead on Mosolova's serve and ended up with the critical break two points later.
"I was really aggressive in that game," said Mijacika, "and that paid off. I was trying to stay calm in the next game and finish well."
After a shaky first-point error, Mijacika got it to 40-15, but Mosolova cracked a return winner.
"On the first match point she returned awesome," said Mijacika. "I was like, okay, I need to put a first serve in again, and it was an ace."
Miseviciute is not the only woman in Charlottesville seeking her second National Indoor title Sunday. Kelcy Tefft of Notre Dame, who, along with partner Brook Buck took the doubles title last year, will try for another, this time with freshman Kristy Frilling. The unseeded pair reached the final with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over No. 4 seeds Macall Harkins and Anna Sydorska of TCU, and will attempt to take out their third seeded team on Sunday in No. 3 Renata Kucerkova and Anastasia Petukhova of Fresno State. Kucerkova and Petukhova downed unseeded Nanar Airapetian and Anouk Tigu of Arkansas 7-5, 6-3.
The men's doubles championship features No. 1 seeds Steve Forman and Cory Parr of Wake Forest against unseeded Robert Farah and Steve Johnson of USC. Forman and Parr defeated the unseeded Tulsa pair of Brugues and Phil Stevens 7-6(3), 6-2, while Farah and Johnson took down All-American champions Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge of Ole Miss in similar fashion, 7-6(2), 6-2.
The consolation finals for those losing in the first round will begin the day on Sunday. No. 3 seed Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech will play unseeded Megan Falcon of LSU and No. 3 seed Nate Schnugg of Georgia takes on unseeded Bruno Agostinelli of Kentucky. In men's doubles, host school Virginia's Dominic Inglot and Michael Shabaz will face small college champions Michael Johnson and Monte Tucker of Auburn-Montgomery in a battle of unseeded teams. In women's doubles, Auburn-Montgomery's Delia Sescioreanu and Tereza Ververkova will play USC's Gabriela Niculescu and Maria Sanchez.
For complete draws, visit the ITA tournament site.
Saturday, November 8, 2008