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Friday, February 17, 2012

Top Seeds Breeze on Opening Day of ITA Men's Team Indoor; Klahn's Return Boosts Stanford Over Baylor

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Charlottesville, VA--

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.


ITa Official said...

I never heard of back to back overrules late in a match that has gone relatively smooth until that point. Knowing Zsiga I have a hard time believing he would make bad calls.

Sad but true said...

Controlling and persuading the chair umps has seemingly become a part of the game in college tennis. They constantly look like they're making blind guesses. And today, in both semifinals, my 20:10 vision couldn't believe how wrong they frequently were. It's no longer about whether a ball is ACTUALLY in or out but more about if you came make the chair ump believe it was in or out.

Russ said...

The NCAA and the ITA have to require schools hosting the two major tournaments to install hawkeye. I know it's expensive, but, as a freshman dad, I am amazed at the number of questionable calls being made and the number of overrules that look like "blind guesses". Despite some issues of cheating in the juniors, it never seemed to me to be as bad, or as consequential, as many exclaimed. In college tennis, with the stakes so much higher and the matches so much more evenly matched, bad calls can be decisive in a match. Take for instance the second set tiebreak between Frank and Kobelt: it is 2-2, kobelt serving. I was standing between the deuce sideline and the middle sideline. A pretty good view with a number of other Virginia fans. Kobelt's first serve down the T appeared to be in, clipping the inside of line. Frank, unable to reach it, called it out and most of the Virginia fans (but not all), and the chair agreed. Facing kobelt's second serve, frank was able to win the point for a mini-break. On the very next point a rally ensued, and kobelt hit a heavy topspin looper right by the deuce sideline that Frank called out. Again Kobelt questioned. This time Frank was overruled. He and the fans went nuts. Now this ball to my eyes may possibly have been in. I wasn't sure either way. One thing I have learned from being at hawkeye tournaments is that balls that may look out to the naked eye, may in fact have caught a sliver of line. You actually have to have seen out space clearly surrounding the ball to be 100% certain that the ball is indeed out (which by the way is how I was taught to call lines). Now the human eye is incapable of tracking such infitestimal degrees and bad calls will be made, but who made the second bad call? The chair who was sitting on that sideline or frank? I don't know, but instead of it being 4-2 Frank, it was back on serve. That call may have decided the entire UVA - OSU match. Frank keeps the break, wins the tiebreak, and givenhow tough a competitor he is, goes on to win the match.

Two back to back calls: was it 4-2 Frank, 4-2 Kobelt, or 3-3? Who really knows? Is that just the vagaries of sport? Or haven't we already decided that if the technology is there it should be utilized?

Besides eliminating uncertainity in the final result, i think hawkeye also would eliminate the issue of being branded a cheater. Players would again have to call giving the shot the benefit of the doubt; and there would be recourse if a contention arose. And many times the alleged cheater would be vindicated not by a chair making blind guesses, but by a technological system that has virtually eliminated mistaken line calls deciding matches on the ATP level. It's expensive, but I sure would love to see it.

ITa Official said...

This prolem would be alleviated if the Referees would place extra officials on the far side lines when matches get tight. The Big 12 Conference requires officials on the far side lines on deciding matches or when the team match is getting close. It has solved a lot of problems. It's hard enough to see the far side lines. Playing indoors makes it even worse. For some reason, most Referees at the NCAA National level refuse to use common sense and use officials available to them.

university tennis said...

Since the subject of cheating has been brought up(again), how about talking about how some college coaches teach their players the technique of line calling( when and where to throw in a bad call)? Also, what about "Stacking" the lineup? Gamesmanship starts with the coaches.

work-hard-tennis said...

I have always told my kids not to be whiners about line calls. Get way better than the opponent and then you won't have to worry about it. I get so tired of juniors (the parents especially) complaining about the linecalls. Get better, I say.

Yet, I have to also say, when those officials are sitting up way high in the chair, and do some of these overrules that they cannot possibly be seeing the angle correctly. Anyone who plays tennis knows that. You need to be right on the line (like a linesman is) to see where the ball lands. Yet continually I have seen them do the questionable overrules, making the person feel like a cheater. They should know that.

Kind of scary to me.

Never going to happen said...


I'd love to see hawkeye at college matches as well, but that will never happen. You acknowledge that it is expensive, but I don't think you understand the cost. No grand slams even have 6 courts with hawkeye. The suggestion that the NCAA championships, which use 12 courts, should install hawkeve is absurd.

Mikalea said...

work hard tennis

"just get better" means what to someone who just hit a winner on the inside of the line-which is called out by cheaters. That is the best shot in tennis-you cannot get better than that.

How bout stop cheating


work-hard-tennis said...

Mikalea: I wholeheartedly agree--they need to stop cheating. But as the opponent, what can you do? Get all bent out of shape, angrily stomp around, and then lose the match b/c of a few points? Or breathe and say "Okay, they are going to call them close. I am going to STOP hitting the ball so close to the line and win another way". (Btw, I also am going to all them up to the net and tell them that if they are going to call them that way, so will I.)

You have no choice. What else do you do?

And to be fair, just b/c you thought it was in doesn't mean it was. Haven't you ever been in a room with your trusted tennis friends watching a TV tennis match and had differences of opinions as to whether a ball was in or not?

But I do agree, if there is cheating, it needs to stop.

Russ said...

I became involved in a conversation regarding line calling with two officials running the tournament . I asked why the futures and challenger tournaments can have officials calling lines but the ita and NCAA can't afford it? It's not as if venues like Rochester NY or Godfrey IL or Chico CA have gobs of money to spend. His reply basically was that the usta funds the lines people. I replied that if the usta is serious about using the college system to develop players, then it needs to toss some money in that direction. (Maybe pat and Jose can donate a few bucks if their salaries are as high as the other comment thread attests.) They could also get more sponsors, line the walls like these other tournaments with their advertisements, plead and cajole the athletic departments to contribute more. What they can't do, and what these two officials seem resigned to doing, is nothing.

I know hawkeye is expensive and that the majors have them on only a few selected courts; however, I partially attribute that to a "let's test this out and see how it works" stance. It took the itf how long to finally mandate it for all Davis cup matches (it just happened)? It's clear to everyone that it works and my guess (as long as pressure continues to be applied) all courts will have hawk eye. The beauty of hawkeye for the college scene is that the initial cost can be amortized over time vis-a-vis the annual outlay for officials. And to make the cost even lower perhaps, can't they just buy hawkeye and have it transported and temporarily set up for these two main college tournaments.
Again something has to be done and I don't think the answer is "stop cheating." The human eye is incapable of correctly determining whether a ball is in or out, as officials miss about 1/3 of the calls that are challenged by the players. When you throw in the player's natural bias into the mix, the probability of a miscall rises even without the intent of cheating. Heck, in the Frank match there were disagreements between the fans who were right on the lines whether those two balls were in or out. When I'm at the us open, my buddy and I would bet a beer on what hawkeye would reveal.

Nevertheless, I think we all agree that miscalled lines, chair overrules and point penalties deciding matches mar the game. And to do nothing, to accept this ridiculous situation is organizational malfeasance.