Top Seeds Breeze on Opening Day of ITA Men's Team Indoor; Klahn's Return Boosts Stanford Over Baylor
©Colette Lewis 2012--
The top four seeds in the ITA Men's Team Indoor--USC, Virginia, Ohio State and Georgia--took 4-0 victories in Friday's first round action at the Boar's Head Sports Club. But there was drama away from the stadium courts, which are reserved for the top seeds, No. 5 seed Florida, No. 9 seed Stanford and No. 10 seed Duke claiming dramatic victories.
Third seed Ohio State needed a tiebreaker at No. 3 to win the doubles point, but they had little trouble in singles, defeating No. 14 Texas 4-0 to start the morning's matches. No. 6 seed Kentucky also looked sharp, taking out No. 11 Texas A&M 4-0.
In one of the noon matches, No. 4 seed Georgia rolled past No. 13 Cal 4-0, but in the other match being played, No. 12 Pepperdine and No. 5 Florida went down to the last match before the Gators came through with a 4-3 win.
Florida had lost the doubles point when Andrew Butz and Bob van Overbeek were unable to convert on several match points with Pepperdine's Hugh Clarke and David Sofaer serving at 7-8, then dropping the match in the tiebreaker 7 points to 4.
Florida trailed 3-2 with two matches left on court--but Nassim Slilam pulled the Gators even, beating Mousheg Hovhannisyan 6-3, 7-5 at line 3. That left the match in the hands of Pepperdine's Jenson Turner and Florida's Michael Alford, in the other bank of glassed-in courts. Turner had dropped the first set, so he needed to win a second set tiebreaker to send the match into the third, but Alford was up to the challenge, taking the match 6-4, 7-6(4).
Florida coach Andy Jackson was pleased that sophomore Alford was able to come through for the Gators.
"He broke his foot last year and he didn't have a lot of experience in college," said Jackson. "But I feel like he can be a really good player. It was his first clinching match today, but I have a feeling it won't be his last."
In the 3:30 matches that followed, top seed USC breezed past No. 16 seed Tennessee 4-0, with the Volunteers holding their own in the first few games of the doubles, but unable to offer much resistance when the singles.
The other mid-afternoon match started with an amazing and unusual doubles display, with all three matches decided in tiebreakers. No. 8 seed UCLA won two of the tiebreakers to take a 1-0 lead, but No. 10 Duke came out strong in the singles, taking five first sets. UCLA took a 2-0 lead with Adrien Puget's 6-4, 6-3 victory over Fred Saba at No. 4, but Duke was too strong for the Bruins on the other courts, and Jason Tahir clinched the 4-2 win for the Blue Devils by beating fellow freshman Dennis Mkrtchian 6-4, 6-3.
The evening matches again followed the same theme, with No. 2 seed Virginia having little difficulty on the stadium courts, posting a 4-0 win over No. 15 Auburn, while No. 9 Stanford and No. 7 Baylor needed ninety minutes to decide the doubles point, which went to the Bears in a 9-8(4) tiebreaker at No. 3.
When the singles started, Stanford took the first sets in five of the six matches,but courts 1-3 were considerably behind those in the other bank of courts, due to a 20-minute delay while lighting problems were fixed. Even with the delay, Bradley Klahn, returning to the singles lineup for the Cardinal for the first time this year after an injury, earned Stanford's first point, defeating Marko Krickovic 6-3, 6-2 at No. 3. Diego Galeano made it 2-1 Baylor with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Denis Lin at No. 4. Robert Stineman brought the Cardinal even with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Kike Grangeiro at No. 6.
John Morrissey of Stanford was down a break at 4-3 in the third set against Lars Behlen at No. 5, but immediately got it back, and broke Behlen to give the Cardinal their first lead of the night.
The two matches remaining were at decidedly different stages, with Matt Kandath and Roberto Maytin well into their third set at 2, but Mate Zsiga and Ryan Thacher still in the second set at 1, in an extremely entertaining and well-played contest.
Maytin had a 4-1, two-break lead, but was unable to serve out the match at 5-4, and he and Kandath went into a tiebreaker just as Thacher broke Zsiga to take a 6-5 lead.
Thacher took a 15-0 lead, then hit a first serve that Zsiga called out. Thacher appealed to the chair umpire, who overruled the freshman from Hungary, making it 30-0. Meanwhile, Kandath was taking a 5-2 lead in the tiebreaker on court 2, so either Stanford player was in good position to clinch. Thacher made another big first serve, Zsiga called it out, and again Zsiga was overruled on appeal. As this was his third call overruled, it was a point penalty, and that gave Thacher the win, and his team a 4-2 victory.
"I had an opponent overruled one time before when I was serving for a set but I've never had anything like that happen," said Thacher.
After a loss to Fresno State last week in Palo Alto, Thacher was happy his team could bounce back.
"Coming off that match Tuesday against Fresno State, a match we wish we had back--I wish I had my individual match back--but I'm proud of the way the guys moved on, especially after losing that tough doubles point. It's really nice to see how the guys fought."
Thacher also recognized the importance of Klahn's return to the lineup.
"It lifts our spirits, he's one of the leaders of the team," said Thacher. "I have confidence in all the guys on the court, but when he's in there at the top of the lineup, other guys can drop down, and while I feel they can win at the higher slots, it just helps having another person up at the top. The combination of those things just makes it awesome that he's back."
For complete results, see the ITA tournament page.