©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rain moved into Athens this morning, leaving the NCAA tournament committee with decisions to make. The two 9 a.m. men's round of 16 matches were moved indoors, with Ohio State and Wisconsin staying in Athens while Southern California and Kentucky were sent to Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Georgia.
Fourth seed Ohio State had already played and beaten Wisconsin twice this year, with the Badgers making their first appearance at the Sweet 16 after upsetting No. 13 Illinois at the regional final.
The Badgers came out looking determined to avenge their previous losses to the Buckeyes. At No. 2 doubles, Patrick Pohlmann and Mike Dierberger played outstanding tennis, making every conceivable shot against Ohio State's Matt Allare and Shuhei Uzawa to take a 5-1 lead. At No. 3 doubles, Buckeyes Justin Kronauge and Balazs Novak were up a break over Billy Bertha and Chris Freeman, so it looked as if it would come down to No. 1 doubles, where Ohio State's Chase Buchanan and Dino Marcan were down a break to Mortiz Baumann and Marek Michalicka from the first game. A few twists and turns later, that's how it ended up, with Pohlmann and Dierberger winning 8-2 at No. 2, and Kronauge and Novak giving up their break, but getting it right back to win 8-6 at No. 3.
Buchanan and Marcan finally did get the break back to make it 6-6, but Buchanan was immediately broken, giving Baumann the opportunity to serve out the point. The senior left-hander got up 40-15, but an unlucky let cord and a missed volley by Michalicka brought it to deuce. Baumann put only one of his eight first serves into the court in that game, missing his last five attempts. Buchanan ripped a forehand winner to get to break point and Michalicka missed another volley to make it 7-7. Marcan held quickly and now it was Michalicka who needed to hold serve. Shaken, the Wisconsin team played tenatively, and although they saved one match point at 15-40, the second was a double fault to give the doubles point to Ohio State.
Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker wasn't surprised that the doubles point came down to that court.
"The two times we played them before that match went to a breaker both times," Tucker said. "They won once and we won once, so it was kind of a rubber match. We hit a let cord winner down 15-40, two match points, and after that, everything seemed to bounce our way."
All the tension of the match was in the doubles point, with Ohio State taking first sets at No. 1, No. 2 and No. 4 singles. Because Georgia has only four indoor courts, the 5 and 6 lines had to wait until a match finished to take the court.
Buchanan made it 2-0 Ohio State, rolling past Baumann at No. 1 6-3, 6-2. Novak made it 3-0 when he broke Freeman serving at 4-5 in a tough second set, posting a 6-1, 6-4 victory. The clincher was provided by senior Kronauge, who defeated Michalicka 6-3, 6-2.
"It's definitely exciting to be back in Athens," Kronauge said. "I haven't been here since my freshman year and it's different now, trying to lead the team, having some of the younger guys pulling through. That doubles point was huge for us today, we snuck by some somehow, then went out there and got the job done pretty quickly."
The Buckeyes play the winner of the Southern Cal - Kentucky match, and if it's the No. 5 Trojans, as expected, it will me a rematch of last year's final.
"We feel USC might be the best team in the country," Tucker said. "Everybody in the country knows what USC is capable of."
For complete results, see the interactive draws at ncaa.com
There will be no zootennis story on the USC - Kentucky match, but check the twitter feed to the left for the final score. The USC athletic website's story is here.
Friday, May 21, 2010