©Colette Lewis 2010--
Rain interruptions are part of tennis, and today's match between No. 8 Stanford and No. 9 UCLA featured several of them. A few sprinkles disrupted the doubles point for a couple of minutes, but when it really started to rain midway through the singles, Stanford was glad to have chance to regroup.
"I told the team we lost the first half," said head coach John Whitlinger, who used the brief time between the transition to the indoor courts to get his team refocused. "I think we won the second half, but we got a little bit too far behind."
The Cardinal had lost the doubles point in a tiebreaker at court 3, when UCLA's Holden Seguso elevated his game to ensure he and partner Alex Brigham would triumph over Stanford's pair of freshmen, Denis Lin and Matt Kandath. At 3-3 in the tiebreaker, Seguso slammed an overhead winner and hit another scorching winner to make it 5-3. Although he missed a first volley serving at 6-3, Seguso hit a good serve on the next point and when the return sailed long, UCLA had the match 9-8(4).
Once the singles began, UCLA took four first sets, with Amit Inbar up a set and 5-2 when heavy rains rolled through Athens for the second time today. The teams were directed to the four-court indoor facility on the premises, and in just a matter of minutes Inbar beat Lin 6-3, 6-2 at No. 4. Stanford had won the first set at No. 1 and No. 2, and Bradley Klahn gave the Cardinal its first point with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Nick Meister at No. 1, leaving the drama to be played out on the four courts of the indoor center.
Seguso claimed the Bruins third point with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Richard Wire at line 5, and it was looking good for UCLA when Haythem Abid forced a third set at No. 2 with Ryan Thacher, and Maxime Tabatruong took the first set from Greg Hirshman at No. 6. Matt Brooklyn was up a set and a break against Alex Clayton, but Clayton fought back, winning a second set tiebreaker.
Meanwhile, Tabatruong, a freshman, had seen his 3-1 lead in the second set slip away, and a medical timeout for what appeared to be a nosebleed didn't change the momentum. Hirshman won eight straight games before Tabatruong got on the board at 3-1 in the third. Thacher got a break at 3-4 in the third, and served out a 7-6(2), 4-6, 6-3 victory to make it 3-2.
With Hirshman looking confident at 6, it looked as if Brooklyn and Clayton would decide it, and serving at 3-3, Brooklyn got down 15-40, before recovering to take a 4-3 lead. He broke Clayton in the next game, and suddenly was serving to put his team in the quarterfinals.
Not content to wait for a mistake, the senior from England played aggressively, pressuring Clayton with several perfectly executed serve-and-volley points. At 40-0, he missed a first serve, but Clayton's backhand return on the second serve went long, and UCLA had the match 4-2.
"Especially indoor where the courts are a little faster, I wanted to make sure I took the game into my hands," Brooklyn said. "I wanted no regrets, whether I won it or lost it."
The win puts UCLA in Sunday's quarterfinal against top-ranked Virginia, and UCLA head coach Billy Martin likes his team's position as underdog.
"Certainly they're favored, so we can go out real relaxed, loose, nothing to lose, nobody's expecting us to win," Martin said. "We love being in that position. For them it can only be a bad loss or a suspect win. From a coaching standpoint, I think that's relatively easy. I can challenge my guys to step up."
For complete results, see the interactive draw at ncaa.com.
Friday, May 21, 2010