Domijan Upset by Fanselow; Defending Champions Move Into Second Round at NCAA Individual Championships
©Colette Lewis 2011--
The morning after the team championships are always a bit disorienting, and given the two thrillers in the finals Tuesday, with Florida defeating Stanford 4-3, and Southern California topping Virginia by the same score, Wednesday's first round of the NCAA Individual Championships seemed especially anticlimactic during the first few hours.
A light drizzle disrupted the morning's first matches, and although the skies cleared and four Taube Family Tennis Center courts usually reserved for practice were opened, most matches were delayed two hours or more, and continued late into the night.
Upsets of players who compete in the team final are far from unusual, and Virginia freshman Alex Domijan, the No. 2 seed, was this tournament's first major victim. Domijan, who lost his third match of the season last Friday to Stanford's Ryan Thacher, lost his fourth on the same court Wednesday evening, with Pepperdine's Sebastian Fanselow beating the ITA Rookie of the Year 2-6, 6-4, 6-1.
Fanselow, a sophomore from Germany, was as surprised as anyone by his performance.
"I haven't played a match in four or five weeks," said Fanselow, whose team was not allowed by the school's administration to participate in the NCAA tournament when a financial aid irregularity was discovered. "I felt good before the tournament, but I didn't expect to beat a guy like Alex, who’s definitely a great player. Obviously, it could have been a better draw, but I was excited to play him."
Domijan's groundstrokes and serve can dominate a match, but Fanselow's return game kept him even when Domijan was serving. Moving Domijan around the court is easier said than done when playing defense, but an energetic Fanselow was able to do that in the final two sets.
"I just tried to keep the ball in play," the 28th-ranked Fanselow said. "He has huge ground strokes and a really big serve. I was trying to get him moving, get him running, and then try to play as aggressive as possible, and come to the net as much as possible."
With teammate Finn Tearney also advancing to the second round, Fanselow could be positive about the future aspects of the Waves, despite not being allowed to compete in the team tournament.
"This is definitely going to give us confidence, and hopefully next year we can play the team tournament too," Fanselow said. “It was really frustrating, to have a really great season and then getting that little disappointment at the end didn't really help much. But I guess you've got to look forward."
The championship hangover is getting to be such a regular problem for three-time champion University of Southern California that they've begun to solve it. Although Jaak Poldma pulled out of the singles and doubles to prepare for his life after tennis, the other three individual qualifiers all advanced to the second round. Top seed and tournament Most Outstanding Player Steve Johnson defeated Texas A&M's Jeff Dadamo 6-4, 6-2, match clincher Daniel Nguyen beat SMU's Artem Baradach 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 and freshman Raymond Sarmiento upset Ohio State's Chase Buchanan, a 9 seed, 3-6, 7-6(2), 6-3.
The two main protagonists in Tuesday’s dramatic women’s final, Florida’s Lauren Embree and Stanford’s Mallory Burdette, had mixed results. Embree, who came back from 4-0 down in the third set to win a tiebreaker that clinched the Gators’ championship, beat No. 7 seed Bianca Eichkorn of Miami 7-5, 6-4. Burdette lost to North Carolina’s Zoe Bruycker, a 9 seed, 1-6, 7-6(3), 6-3.
2010 NCAA champion Chelsey Gullickson of Georgia, who is not seeded in this year's tournament, dropped the first set to Clemson's Keri Wong, but came back to post a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win. Men's reigning champion Bradley Klahn of Stanford, playing in front of approximately 2500 fewer people than in his team's quarterfinal match with Virginia, had a tough first set with Michigan's Jason Jung, but played the big points well and dominated the second set for a 7-6(5), 6-2 win.
Men's No. 3 seed Michael Shabaz of Virginia certainly appreciated having to play only two games against Tulsa's Marcelo Arevalo, who was defaulted for three audible obscenities. In the very first game, Arevalo let loose a loud string of Spanish that contained a couple of common vulgarities, and he was given a point penalty, which gave Shabaz the game. In the next game, several line disputes arose, one of which was an overrule by the chair against Arevalo. During the ensuing argument, Arevalo was given a game penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct, making it 2-0 Shabaz.
Men's tournament referee Jim Russell explained the final penalty, which is loss of the match.
"The third was another audible obscenity and unfortunately Anthony (the chair umpire) speaks fluent Spanish, so I defaulted him. That's the procedure: point, game, default. I hated to do it, but that's what we've got to do."
Russell, who has been the tournament referee at scores of ITA and NCAA tournaments for many years, couldn't recall a similar incident.
"I called the (NCAA) committee and told them I've never had to do it that quick."
Austen Childs of the University of Louisville, the 2010 finalist, advanced with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Georgia's Wil Spencer, but 2010 semifinalist Tim Puetz of Auburn, a 9 seed, fell to University of Michigan's Evan King 6-3, 6-0. King saved a break point in the first game of the match, which he considered an important hold.
"That was a big game," said the No. 21-ranked King, who is sporting a new hairstyle that he calls his "old school Will Smith Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" look.
"This year in general, one of the reason I've made it to NCAAs and had a pretty decent year is that mentally when I'm down break points, I'm able to clearly decide what I want to do and be really solid, go for my shots."
King, a sophomore, consulted with head coach Bruce Berque about strategy before the match.
"I talked to Bruce about what I wanted to do in tough situations," said the left-hander from Chicago, Ill. "It happened to be the first game, when I was down break point, so it's good I was mentally solid to get off to a good start."
Although King had never played Puetz, a senior from Germany, and said he wasn't aware of Puetz’s semifinal performance last year, he had received scouting reports from the players he knows in the SEC.
"I knew what to expect. I heard he was capable of heating up on both sides, hitting big on both sides. So I just tried to mix it up, not go bang, bang, bang with him. It ended up working, because he got frustrated and it ended up going by pretty easily in the second."
The second round of singles and the first round of doubles are slated for Thursday.