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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Top Seeds Struggle but Advance, Defending Champion Falls in NCAA Second Round

©Colette Lewis 2009--
College Station, TX

Top seeds Arnau Brugues of Tulsa and Maria Mosolova of Northwestern were side by side on Stadium Courts 1 and 2 at the George Mitchell Tennis Center Thursday morning, and both had dropped the opening set. Brugues turned his match with Roy Kalmanovich of Illinois around in the second set, and the left-handed senior's physical strength eventually wore down Kalmanovich 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.

Mosolova, playing in her second straight three-setter, had an even tougher time putting away Noemi Scharle of Florida State, taking their contest 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Scharle, a freshman from Luxembourg, began experiencing cramps in her foot late in the third set, and it definitely inhibited her movement in the final three games.

Clemson's Ani Mijacika, seeded fourth, did not escape Thursday as she did in Wednesday's first round, when down a set and a break, she came back to defeat Marta Lesniak of SMU 6-7(3), 6-4, 7-5. Today she was facing the tough veteran Laura Vallverdu of Miami, who capitalized on her opportunities for a 7-6(0), 7-6(3) win.

Vallverdu is one of three Miami players to reach the round of 16. Bianca Eichkorn and No. 2 seed Julia Cohen also advanced today. Eichkorn took out UCLA's Yasmin Schnack, a 9-16 seed, who was up 3-0 in the second set and lost the last six games of the match.

Duke also placed three players in the final 16, especially surprising given the usual team championship letdown. Playing for the fifth day in a row, Reka Zsilinszka, Ellah Nze and Mallory Cecil all advanced in straight sets on a seasonably warm day in College Station; Cecil's win was notable for being over defending NCAA champion Amanda McDowell of Georgia Tech. It was the freshman Cecil who was seeded, however, and although the No. 5 seed doesn't feel she is playing brilliant tennis, she managed a 6-4, 6-4 victory.

"I feel like I'm fighting really well," said Cecil, who joined the Blue Devils in January. "I can definitely tell that all of us are a little fatigued right now, but I think that's pretty normal. We're resting as much as we can. But I just feel that all of us are just so match tough, that that's what is keeping us out there, keeping us ahead in some of these matches. We've been in so many situations in our singles matches, nothing's really getting to us right now."

As unseeded players reaching the round of 16, Vallverdu, Eichkorn, Nze and Zsilinszka all earned All-American honors today. (Those seeded already were assured of that designation prior to the competition). Sanaz Marand of North Carolina and Laura Gioia of Furman, who play each other on Friday, also achieved that coveted status.

On the men's side, two freshman who faced each other last year in Kalamazoo's fourth round, Steve Johnson of USC and Devin Britton of Ole Miss (Johnson won 6-3, 6-3), have claimed All-American honors. Johnson gutted out a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Guillermo Gomez of Georgia Tech and is actually the only player remaining who still has an opportunity to win the rare triple crown of team, singles and doubles championships.

Britton defeated Dom Inglot of Virginia 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in a match of big servers that I'm told had only one rally that reached eight shots. It was either a serve winner, a return error, a first volley winner, first volley error--you get the idea. Britton plays Bruno Rosa of Rice who had the comeback of the day, saving five match points and digging out of a 7-5, 5-1 hole against Clint Bowles of Florida State, and going on to win the final 12 games of the match.

The unseeded Rosa joins Stanford's Alex Clayton, who beat No. 3 seed Bryan Koniecko of Ohio State 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-1, Pepperdine's Omar Altmann, Virginia's Sanam Singh, North Carolina State's Jay Weinacker and San Diego's Dean Jackson as All-Americans.

Jackson had the biggest win, taking out No. 7 seed and 2008 D'Novo All-American champion Michael Venus of LSU 7-6(7), 6-3. Venus can blast some people off the court, but Jackson, a sophomore from Germany, is not one of them. I saw Jackson take Baylor's Lars Poerschke to three sets in last year's first round, and his lefty forehand can be absolutely lethal.

Doubles got underway today, and there were the usual array of exciting matches. I watched most of No. 4 seeds Nate Schnugg and Jamie Hunt of Georgia's 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(4) win over Virginia's Houston Barrick and Singh. This was a rematch of the ITA Team Indoor finals' No. 1 doubles matchup, which Barrick and Singh won in a tiebreaker to give Virginia the doubles point. The Cavaliers were serving for today's match at 5-4 in the third, but couldn't finish it, and this time Hunt and Schnugg played a better tiebreaker to take the win.

Barrick and Singh's teammates fared better, with Inglot and Michael Shabaz eliminating the top-seeded team of Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge of Ole Miss 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4. Berg and ten Berge have not been playing well the past two weeks, so although it looks like a big upset, it really isn't that surprising.

For complete results, see the aggieathletics website.

Marcia Frost returned to Illinois today, but her coverage will continue at College Tennis Examiner.


GATech Fan said...

With Duke losing Mang, Robinson and Iyer (while listed as a junior, was honored at senior day), who is Ashworth planning to bring in? Haven't heard of any commitments and that would leave them with 5 players.