©Colette Lewis 2010--
Alex Domijan finally lost the first set of his brief college career Sunday, but the 6-foot-7 freshman stood tall when it mattered, rebounding for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over Kentucky's Eric Quigley to assure a sweep of the D'Novo/ITA All-American titles for the Virginia Cavaliers. Moments after Domijan claimed Virginia's first singles title at the All-American Championships, teammates Drew Courtney and Michael Shabaz added the doubles trophy, taking a 3-6, 6-7(4), 6-3 decision over Ohio State's Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola.
It was another warm and mostly sunny day at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center, but for the first time since the tournament's start on Thursday, a few clouds darkened the sky during the Sunday morning final. It was also the first time an opponent had threatened Domijan's perfect start in college, with Quigley taking the only set Domijan has lost in the two tournaments he's played since joining the Cavaliers.
Both players started nervously, with the eighth-seeded Quigley getting broken in the third game, and Domijan giving the break right back with a double fault in the fourth. Quigley, a junior from Pewee Valley, Kentucky, was able to stay with Domijan off the ground, and by taking the ball early and hitting through the court, Quigley was depriving Domijan of the time he needed to set up for his forehand. Quigley also returned very well, making Domijan work to hold, and with Domijan serving at 4-5, that pressure paid off, with Quigley breaking at love to take the first set.
"He hit really good returns, hit baseline returns nearly every single time," said Domijan, of Wesley Chapel, Florida. "I was just trying to hang on. He plays differently than a lot of the players I've played. He hits a lot flatter, and it was tough to get used to that at first. Everybody I've played has been a grinder, with spin."
In the second set, there was only one break, with Quigley having a lapse of concentration at 2-2 40-15. Two doubles faults, at 40-30 and ad out, ended up costing him the set.
"What my assistant coach Cedric (Kauffmann) told me after the match, and I totally agree, was that I played good, except for about five minutes," said Quigley, the first Wildcat to reach the final at the All-American. "In those five minutes he really stepped on me, and took advantage of my lack of focus."
In the third set, there were no breaks until Quigley served at 3-all. A couple of Quigley errors, one a missed backhand volley that Domijan forced with some impressive scrambling, gave Domijan two break points, and he converted the first when Quigley sent a backhand just wide. Domijan picked up his serving in the next game, hitting two aces on his way to a 5-3 lead, and Quigley couldn't respond, winning just one point on his serve in the final game.
Domijan hadn't had to play from behind in his previous five wins in the tournament, so dealing with that adversity represented an important test for him.
"I felt like I competed a lot better than I did earlier this year in Futures," said the 19-year-old Domijan, who received a wild card into the tournament as the country's top-ranked freshman. "I think I would have lost this match in January."
Asked what had changed in those few months, Domijan replied, "I'm just happier I guess. My foot was hurting me a lot in those tournaments, and I couldn't move. So every time someone would drop shot me, I would be like, I can't get that, and it just kind of escalated. Now, it still hurts afterward, but when I'm playing, I can move fine."
Domijan is the first freshman to win the All-American title since Stanford's Ryan Wolters in 1995, and with his victory gave the Virginia men's program the only individual title that had eluded them in coach Brian Boland's ten years in Charlottesville.
Former Cavalier Somdev Devvarman, who today won the singles gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in India, won the All-American doubles title with Treat Huey in 2007. 2010 NCAA champions Shabaz and Courtney added a second collegiate major to their resumes Sunday in Tulsa, and next month at the ITA Indoor Championships in New York, will be going for the calendar doubles slam in collegiate tennis.
"For New York, I hope we can just go out and play our best tennis," said Courtney, a junior from Clifton, Virginia. "I know we can step on the court and beat anyone if we do that. We're going to go back, train hard and get ready."
Although Shabaz is a two-time defending NCAA champion, having won the 2009 title with Dominic Inglot, it was a match he and Courtney played this summer against the Bryan twins at the ATP Legg-Mason that really boosted their confidence.
"The Bryan brothers are the best team in the world, they just won the U.S. Open," said Shabaz. "We played them in D.C. and it literally came down to a few points here and there," Shabaz said of the Bryans' 7-6(6), 6-4 victory. "With our game styles, we feel, like Drew said, we can play with anybody. We can take care of our serves, slap at a few returns, put pressure on our opponents, that's the key to our success."
In Sunday's final, Shabaz and Courtney broke at 5-5 in the second set, but Shabaz was unable to put away Buckeyes Buchanan and Rola, who were playing their first tournament together.
"I didn't put enough first serves in," said Shabaz, a senior from Fairfax, Virginia. "Once you go to a tiebreaker, it's anyone's game to win. Once we lost that set, we were a little down, but we felt we could hold serve easier, that they were going to give us a chance here or there on their serve. When they gave it to us, we took it."
Shabaz and Courtney took a 3-0 lead in the final set, but holding that one break wasn't easy, especially with Shabaz serving at 5-3.
"The last game was a tough game," Shabaz admitted. "But I was able to knock down some first serves to close it out."
Coach Boland was pleased with the way the day ended for the Cavaliers.
"I'm just happy for the players. They're the ones who put in the hard work that makes this happen."
In the consolation singles final, Steve Johnson of Southern California defeated Georgia's Javier Garrapiz 6-4, 6-2.
For complete draws, see the ITA tournament website.
At the women's ITA/Riviera All-American, Hilary Barte of Stanford, the No. 2 seed, defeated top seed Jana Juricova of Cal-Berkeley 7-6(4), 6-3 to claim the singles title.
For complete results, see the ITA tournament website.
Sunday, October 10, 2010