©Colette Lewis 2010--
Virginia freshman Alex Domijan hadn't lost a match in his short collegiate career until Thursday, when former junior rival Rhyne Williams of Tennessee ended Domijan's bid for a second consecutive major title with a tense 7-6(8), 7-6(5) victory in the opening round of the USTA/ITA Intercollegiate Indoor Championships.
Domijan, who won the ITA D'Novo All-American title last month as an unseeded wild card, had plenty of opportunities to take the opening set against Williams, but failed to convert any of his break points. Both players held serve throughout, with Domijan getting more free service points and easier holds. In the tiebreaker, Domijan took a 6-4 lead when Williams put a forehand into the net, but that was the last forehand Williams would miss in the tiebreaker.
Williams saved the first set point with an ace, the second with a forehand winner on the line, but Domijan earned a third with a forehand winner of his own to make it 7-6. Williams again cracked a forehand winner to save set point number 3, and another winner later, it was Williams with a set point. Returning the favor, Domijan saved it with a forehand winner, and if you are getting the impression there was nothing but winners hit in the later stages of the tiebreaker, you are absolutely correct. Williams hit two more, both off the forehand side, the second while on top of the net, and the first set was finally his.
After such a well-played opening set, it was inevitable that the level of play would drop some in the second, and Williams was broken in the first game. Domijan couldn't consolidate that break, and when he earned another break at 2-2, he again dropped serve immediately. There were no other breaks the rest of the way, and a second tiebreaker, only slightly less dramatic than the first, ended up deciding the match. Williams' slight 4-1 lead evaporated on a backhand error making it 4-4, and the two players traded service winners to make it 5-5. A swinging volley winner gave Williams his first match point, and again dictating with his forehand, Williams pressured Domijan, who put a backhand into the net to end the match.
Williams, who had beaten Domijan 7-5 in the third the last time the two played in Kalamazoo's round of 16 in 2008, knew he was involved in a special match.
"I could tell right away that it was going to be a good match," said the sophomore from Knoxville. "He may not have played his best tennis today--he didn't serve incredible--but I did play very well. The way that I played, I would really like to keep that going. It's the game style I want, moving around my backhand to hit forehands, serving well, so hopefully I can keep that going."
Williams knew he was fortunate to stay in the second set after that early break.
"With him having such a great serve, I felt like I let up a little at the beginning of the second set, and I thought I was in trouble. But luckily I hit some good returns, and he missed some first serves and that allowed me to take control of some points on his serve and to get back into it."
Despite his third win over Domijan in their past three meetings, Williams remembers that it wasn't always that way.
"He always killed me back in the 14s," Williams remembered. "He hit the ball way too hard."
Domijan will be joined in the consolation round by three other seeded players, including No. 2 seed and All-American finalist Eric Quigley of Kentucky, who lost to the other freshman in the draw, Blaz Rola of Ohio State 6-7(3), 7-6(4), 6-2. No. 5 seed JP Smith of Tennessee was eliminated by Austin Krajicek of Texas A & M 6-2, 6-4, with Krajicek volleying especially well against his fellow left-hander. No. 6 seed Guillermo Gomez of Georgia Tech, the 2009 Indoor finalist, lost to Kiryl Harbatsiuk of Sacramento State 3-6, 7-5, 6-4.
Henrique Cunha(3) of Duke, Bradley Klahn(4) of Stanford, defending champion Steve Johnson(7) of USC, and Chase Buchanan(8) of Ohio State all won in straight sets, although Buchanan had to come back from 5-3 down and saved two set points in the second set of his his 6-2, 7-5 win over Mississippi's Tucker Vorster.
It was a particularly discouraging day for the Virginia Cavaliers, who not only saw Domijan lose but teammates Sanam Singh and Drew Courtney fall as well. Virginia went 0-6 in tiebreakers on Thursday, with Domijan losing both his, Singh losing both his to Enej Borin of Denver and Courtney losing his last two to Sebastian Fanselow of Pepperdine 4-6, 7-6(4), 7-6(4). Fanselow saved two match points serving at 5-6 in the final set.
On the women's side, there was only one seed who failed to reach the second round. Reka Zsilinszka of Duke, seeded No. 8, lost to Sona Novakova of Baylor 7-6(2), 6-3.
The Stanford women went 3-0 in the opening round, with No. 1 seed Hilary Barte and freshmen Kristie Ahn and Nicole Gibbs winning in straight sets. No. 2 seed and defending champion Jana Jurikova of Cal-Berkeley looked especially comfortable on the courts of the state-of-the-art Indoor Training Center, defeating Marta Lesniak of SMU 6-2, 6-2.
Stanford's success didn't extend to the doubles competition however. Top seeds and All-American champions Barte and Mallory Burdette lost to Sophie Oyen and Allie Will of Florida 9-7 and Ahn and Gibbs lost to Oklahoma's Anna Maria Constantinescu and Alice Radu 8-4. Cal's No. 2 seeded team of Mari Andersson and Juricova advanced to the quarterfinals with a 8-4 win over Paige Miles and Anastasia Putilina of Utah.
The Cardinal team of Klahn and Ryan Thacher, defending champions and seeded third this year, lost to Jeff Dadamo and Krajicek 8-5. No. 2 seeds Amit Inbar and Nick Meister of UCLA fell to Jean Andersen and Ed Corrie of Texas by the same score. Top seeds Reid Carleton and Cunha of Duke escaped with a 9-8(1) win over Austen Childs and Viktor Maksimcuk of Louisville.
For complete results and draws, including consolation draws, see the ITA tournament website. Live scoring can be found at the tournament page of host school Columbia.
Thursday, November 4, 2010