Southern Cal Blanks Top Seed Virginia; Texas Bounces Two-Time Defending Champion Georgia in NCAA Division I Men's Quarterfinals
©Colette Lewis 2009--
College Station TX--
The rains of Saturday gave way to cool and windy conditions Sunday, and it was the underdogs who prospered at the George Mitchell Tennis Center at Texas A & M. Southern California ended top seeded Virginia's perfect season by a score of 4-0, while No. 12 Texas ended Georgia's NCAA match winning streak at 15 with a 4-2 win.
Eighth-seeded Southern California, leading Virginia 1-0 when play was halted Saturday, lost no momentum despite the long delay, and took four of the six first sets in singles. Robert Farah got his team a very quick 2-0 lead with a 6-3, 6-1 win over Virginia's Dominic Inglot, and at No. 2 Steve Johnson made it 3-0 with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Virginia's Sanam Singh.
"You can't say this to the team, but you've got 1-0 and you really want someone to step up to make it 2-0," said USC head coach Peter Smith. "Robert did that, and that's huge for us. Everyone sees the score, and it's just a train going down the tracks, going faster and faster, and the faster it goes the harder it is to stop. That was big for Robert to get off the court, 3 and 1."
On court No. 4 USC senior Abdullah Magdas was able to slow the train down a bit; after losing the first set to Houston Barrick, Magdas took the second 6-2 and then built a 5-1 lead in the third. He didn't win a point serving for the match however, and his thoughts went back to the dual match against Texas A & M where, on the very same court, he had led 5-1 in the final match on, only to lose it.
"That was obviously a little bit in my head," said Magdas. "I missed two forehands (then) that I'm still having flashbacks on, and obviously that match hurt me a little bit today, but I managed to somehow pull it out at 5-3."
At 40-15, Magdas missed long, and on his second chance to finish, netted an easy volley, seemingly surprised that Barrick got his approach back. But an effective first serve produced a return error from Barrick to give him his third chance, and he took it.
"It wasn't easy; Houston is a good player," said Magdas. "There's a lot of things, I'm thinking about, thinking about the team more than playing for myself right, since this is potentially my last match every dual."
Coach Brian Boland of Virginia complimented USC's effort and play, but he was very subdued in the media center.
"No excuses, they played better; they were the better team today," said Boland, whose undefeated team last year had their streak snapped by Georgia in the NCAA semifinals. "But it's really, really disappointing that we're sitting here again in a similar situation, but that's sports."
In the other quarterfinal between Georgia and Texas, the Longhorns overcame the loss of the doubles point on Saturday, and won four of the five singles that finished to beat the two-time defending national champion Bulldogs 4-2.
It was Olivier Sajous, playing in his first NCAA tournament as a transfer from Florida Atlantic, who clinched it with a 7-6(6), 7-6(4) win on court No. 4 over Josh Varela. The Longhorns had taken a 2-1 lead with the oft-injured Miguel Reyes Varela taking an easy 6-2, 6-1 point from Borja Malo at No. 6, while at No. 5, Josh Zavala took out Christian Vitulli 6-4, 6-1. At No. 1 singles, Texas's Dimitar Kutrovsky made it 3-1 for his team with a 6-4, 7-6(2) win over Nate Schnugg, but Georgia couldn't be counted out just yet.
Although Sajous was up a set at 4, he was down 3-0 in the second, and Georgia's Garrapiz was in control over Ed Corrie at No. 2. Jamie Hunt of Georgia had pulled even at 5-5 in his contest with longtime friend Kellen Damico at No. 2, and with the first set in hand, it looked as if he might might yet win in straights. Garrapiz did make it 3-2, but Hunt was broken serving at 5-6, and all eyes went to court 4.
Sajous won four straight games but was broken serving at 4-3 on an overrule on the near sideline with the score 30-40. Ironically, at 4-3 in the ensuing tiebreaker, it was an overrule in the very same spot against Varela, who had been overruled twice already, and the penalty point put Sajous at 6-3, three match points. Varela hit a forehand winner to save one, but on the next his backhand went wide, and the Longhorns were once again in the Final Four.
"To beat Georgia in the NCAA championships is quite a deal for us," said Texas coach Michael Center. "They've won back-to-back national championships, they beat us last year in the finals, and they've got a great program...so to knock them out here was quite an accomplishment....but I though our guys were just awesome today."
Center thought getting their three points relatively quickly was key for his team.
"We really started to put pressure on them, and when Kellen got that split, we really had them in the corner. But having them in the corner doesn't guarantee a victory, you've really got to get that last point, and hats off to Ollie for doing it."
Sajous was determined not to get on an emotional rollercoaster, which Center mentioned as something his player was prone to.
"I was thinking not to think about my mistakes," said Sajous. "Move on, try to stay positive. It's a gentlemen's game, not show negative emotion. That's what happened to my opponent in the tiebreak in the second set. I try not to do that."
For Georgia coach Manny Diaz, there wasn't a great deal of explanation necessary.
"Texas just played a great match today," said Diaz. "We had a lot of momentum after the doubles point yesterday, and after the rain delay, it was kind of a separate match. But honestly, we just got outplayed today."
For complete scores, see the aggieathletics website.