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Friday, May 25, 2012

Heat Doesn't Stop Top Seeds from Advancing to Quarterfinals of NCAA Division I Individual Championships

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Athens, GA--

Top seeds Steve Johnson of Southern California and Allie Will of Florida survived temperatures in the 90s Friday to advance to the quarterfinals of the NCAA singles championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

Because Johnson was still in doubles, he had a 10 a.m. start time against unseeded Neal Skupski of LSU, which was definite advantage in conditions very unlike those in Stanford last year.

Johnson had played Skupski last fall in the first round of the Costa Mesa Futures, where the USC senior went on to win the title, and his 6-4, 7-5 win there was similar, except for the unfortunate ending.  With Johnson leading 6-3, 5-5, 0-30, Skupski ran hard to cover his forehand corner and fell, injuring his left ankle.  A trainer was called to the court, and because Skupski was lying close to court 2, play was suspended in the women's match next to them while he received treatment. After limping to the changeover bench, Skupski had his ankle wrapped, but was unable to continue, giving Johnson his 69th consecutive collegiate victory.

"I played him in Costa Mesa and I knew he was a good player, there was no doubt about it," said Johnson, who also won his doubles match with Roberto Quiroz later in the afternoon. "He's got a big game--big serve, big forehand, comes in well. In the first set I was fortunate enough to get a break and serve my way through it. In the second set, I don't recall a break point until 5-all. It's really unfortunate what happened. That's not the way you want to win. It was tough watching."

Next up for Johnson is unseeded Alex Domijan of Virginia, who managed a 6-0, 3-6, 6-2 victory over Alex Musialek of Kentucky, a 9-16 seed.

"I've never played him," said Johnson, who didn't meet the sophomore even back in their days of the USTA junior circuit. "But I know he's not just going to go out there and see what happens. He'll have a good game plan, and I'm excited. I've been looking forward to getting a chance to play him."

Will followed Johnson onto Court 1, starting her match around noon, with the heat building relentlessly.  Will's opponent, unseeded Abigail Tere-Apisah of Georgia State, was making her first NCAA appearance, but she held her own, especially in the second set, breaking the Florida junior when she served for the match, before falling in the next game 6-1, 6-4.

"I've been getting better mentally every single day," said Will, who reached the quarterfinals for the first time in her career. "Today I hit the ball a lot deeper, but went through some rough patches on my serve, and she made me pay for that."

Will's opponent in Saturday's quarterfinal is No. 7 seed Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar of Texas A&M, who also advanced in straight sets, defeating unseeded Petra Niedermayerova of Kansas State 6-4, 6-3.

Natalie Pluskota hits the tweener

The other women's quarterfinal in the top half is a rematch of last year's semifinal, with defending champion Jana Juricova of Cal, seeded sixth, against No. 3 seed Nicole Gibbs, of Stanford. Juricova defeated unseeded Aeriel Ellis of Texas 7-6(4), 6-2, and Gibbs won another grueling two-setter, beating unseeded Natalie Pluskota of Tennessee 7- 6(1), 7-6(6). Pluskota hit the shot of the tournament, a tweener that kept her in a point that she eventually won, but it may a shot in the second set tiebreaker that she'll remember more vividly.  After Gibbs had come back from 5-1 down in the tiebreaker, Pluskota earned a set point, but missed a routine overhead into the net, and Gibbs survived.

Another all-Pac-12 quarterfinal is scheduled in the bottom half, with  Sabrina Santamaria of USC, the only unseeded player left in the women's draw, against fellow freshman Zsofi Susanyi of Cal, a 9-16 seed, who beat No. 4 seed Robin Anderson of UCLA 7-5, 6-4. Santamaria, who went undefeated in her team's three dual matches last week, beat two-time NCAA quarterfinalist Nina Secerbegovic of Baylor 6-4, 6-4, her third consecutive straight-set win.

Like Georgia's Chelsey Gullickson, who Santamaria beat in the opening round, Secerbegovic is a big hitter, which doesn't faze Santamaria. She varies her approach depending on her opponent.

"I like playing both kinds of players, [those] who give me pace and give me no pace," Santamaria said. "When they don't give me pace I like to slam forehands, banging the ball is always fun too. So I like any style of play."

The other quarterfinal in the bottom half has No. 2 seed Trice Capra of Duke against No. 5 seed Mallory Burdette of Stanford. Capra beat friend and former junior rival Lauren Embree 6-1, 6-3, while Burdette continued her impressive form, defeating Zoe Scandalis of USC, a 9-16 seed, 6-0, 6-3.

The men have two unseeded quarterfinalists--Domijan and 2010 NCAA champion Bradley Klahn of Stanford, who beat Chase Buchanan of Ohio State, a 9-16 seed, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2.  Klahn had never beaten Buchanan before, and when he missed his opportunity to take a 4-0 lead in the second set and ended up losing it, it appeared that string would continue.

"I was kicking myself a little bit," Klahn said of the two break points he failed to convert with Buchanan serving down 0-3 in the second set. "Just kind of sensing the importance of those and knowing that I need to take advantage of those opportunities against him."

When he didn't, Buchanan raised his level and finished the second set playing his best tennis. In the third, Klahn was able to learn from his mistakes in the second, when he admitted he took his foot off the gas.

"I think I got too far ahead of myself, thinking a game ahead, instead of focusing on what I need to do to have the best opportunity to win that point. I thought I did a much better job in the third set, especially when I got up that break, and carried that momentum."

Klahn's opponent in the quarterfinals is Nik Scholtz of Ole Miss, a 9-16 seed. Scholtz, a freshman, spent even more time on the singles court than Klahn did, eventually getting past unseeded Louis Cant of Mississippi State 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4.

In the bottom quarter, Ohio State's Blaz Rola, a 9-16 seed who reached the quarterfinals last year too, will play No. 2 seed Mitchell Frank.  Frank dealt 9-16 seed Wil Spencer, the last Georgia player left in the draw, a 6-1, 6-3 defeat in a rematch of the 2011 All-American final in Tulsa.  With Frank and Domijan's wins today, Virginia has set a men's modern era (1977) record by putting a player in the quarterfinals for seven consecutive years. USC (1993-1998) and Stanford (1997-2002) held the previous record. Rola ended the college career of Dennis Nevolo, the No. 7 seed, with a 6-4, 6-3 victory.

The other quarterfinal in the men's draw has No. 5 seed Henrique Cunha of Duke against No. 3 seed Eric Quigley of Kentucky. Cunha came back to beat Gonzalo Escobar 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, while Quigley had a tough battle with Artem Ilyushin of Mississippi State, a 9-16 seed, before posting a 7-6(5), 7-6(4) win.

The doubles quarterfinals are also set, with No. 2 seeds Gibbs and Burdette the only seeded team remaining in the women's draw.

Top seeds Buchanan and Rola and No. 2 seeds Johnson and Quiroz are through, as are Klahn and Ryan Thacher, the No. 4 seeds, who reached the semifinals here in Athens in 2010.

Play begins with singles at noon on Saturday.

Men’s Singles Round of 16
#1 Steve Johnson (1), SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA def. #55 Neal Skupski, LSU, 6-3, 6-5, ret. inj.
#39 Alex Domijan, VIRGINIA def. #15 Alex Musialek (9-16), KENTUCKY, 6-0, 3-6, 6-2
#36 Bradley Klahn, STANFORD def. #10 Chase Buchanan (9-16), OHIO STATE, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2
#14 Nik Scholtz (9-16), MISSISSIPPI def. #50 Louis Cant, MISSISSIPPI STATE, 4-6, 7-6(3), 6-4
#5 Henrique Cunha (5), DUKE def. #40 Gonzalo Escobar, TEXAS TECH, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1
#3 Eric Quigley (3), KENTUCKY, def. #13 Artem Ilyushin (9-16), MISSISSIPPI STATE, 7-6(5), 7-6(4)
#9 Blaz Rola (9-16), OHIO STATE def. #7 Dennis Nevolo (7), ILLINOIS, 6-4, 6-3
#2 Mitchell Frank (2), VIRGINIA def. #11 Wil Spencer (9-16), GEORGIA, 6-1, 6-3

Women’s Singles Round of 16
#1 Allie Will (1), FLORIDA def. #37 Abigail Tere-Apisah, GEORGIA STATE, 6-1, 6-4
#6 Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar (7), TEXAS A&M def. #29 Petra Niedermayerova, KANSAS STATE, 6-4, 6-3
#3 Nicole Gibbs (3), STANFORD def. #35 Natalie Pluskota, TENNESSEE, 7-6(1), 7-6(6)
#8 Jana Juricova (6), CALIFORNIA def. #40 Aeriel Ellis, TEXAS, 7-6(4), 6-2
#26 Sabrina Santamaria, SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA def. #23 Nina Secerbegovic, BAYLOR, 6-4, 6-4
#13 Zsofi Susanyi (9-16), CALIFORNIA def. #4 Robin Anderson (4), UCLA, 7-5, 6-4 
#5 Mallory Burdette (5), STANFORD def. #14 Zoe Scandalis (9-16), SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA, 6-0, 6-3
#2 Beatrice Capra (2), DUKE def. #9 Lauren Embree (9-16), FLORIDA, 6-1, 6-3

Men’s Doubles Round of 16
#1 Chase Buchanan-Blaz Rola (1), OHIO STATE def. #21 Roy Kalmanovich-Dennis Nevolo, ILLINOIS, 6-7(2), 6-2, 6-1
#7 Panav Jha-Eric Quigley (5-8), KENTUCKY def. #68 Andre Dome-Matt Fawcett, CAL POLY, 7-6(2), 6-3
#4 Bradley Klahn-Ryan Thacher (4), STANFORD def. #16 Henrique Cunha-Chris Mengel, DUKE, 6-7(3), 6-4, 6-2
#10 Costin Paval-Dane Webb, OKLAHOMA def. #15 Alex Llompart-Finn Tearney, PEPPERDINE, 7-6(2), 3-6, 6-3
#63 Antoine Baroz-Alexis Heugas, VCU def. #5 Drew Courtney-Jarmere Jenkins (5-8), VIRGINIA, 6-2, 7-5 
#17 Chris Thiemann-Marcel Thiemann, MISSISSIPPI def. #3 Kevin King-Juan Spir (3), GEORGIA TECH, 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-4
#18 Raony Carvalho-Gonzalo Escobar, TEXAS TECH def. #6 Nick Andrews-Christoffer Konigsfeldt (5-8), CALIFORNIA, 6-3, 6-1
#2 Steve Johnson-Roberto Quiroz (2), SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA def. #28 Jarryd Botha-Ricky Doverspike, ALABAMA, 6-3, 7-5

Women’s Doubles Round of 16
#13 Ema Burgic-Nina Secerbegovic, BAYLOR def. Alexa Guarachi-Courtney McLane, ALABAMA, 6-3, 6-3
#9 Courtney Dolehide-Pamela Montez, UCLA  def. #8 Kristy Frilling-Shannon Mathews (5-8), NOTRE DAME, 6-3, 4-6, 6-3
#27 Nadja Gilchrist-Chelsey Gullickson, GEORGIA  def. #11 Emina Bektas-Brooke Bolender, MICHIGAN, 4-6, 7-6(0), 6-1
#15 Jana Juricova-Zsofi Susanyi, CALIFORNIA def. #30 Lauren Mira-Jackie Wu, VANDERBILT, 6-0, 7-5
#22 Lauren Embree-Joanna Mather, FLORIDA def. #5 Annie Goransson-Anett Schutting (5-8), CALIFORNIA, 3-6, 6-3, 6-3
#10 Natalie Pluskota-Kata Szekely, TENNESSEE def. #18 Emily Fraser-Lindsey Hardenbergh, VIRGINIA, 7-6(3), 7-6(2)
#32 Lorraine Guillermo-Khunpak Issara, PEPPERDINE def. #23 Alex Anghelescu-Jillian O’Neill, GEORGIA TECH, 6-1, 6-2
#2 Mallory Burdette-Nicole Gibbs (2), STANFORD def. #26 Natalie Beazant-Dominique Harmath, RICE, 6-2, 6-2


Austin said...

Scholtz-Cant was a great match. Scholtz was clearly the more talented player, however, Cant just kept the ball in play and actually choked the match. Cant served for it at 5-4 in the second, got broken at love, served for it again at 6-5 and led 30-0, then lost four straight points and got dominated in the breaker. Third set was also good, but of course Cant, the less talented player, like many before him, got broken at 4-4 and Scholtz served it out. Ive been very impressed by Scholtz's mental game in all three very tight matches for a freshman. Ole Miss has a very good guy at the top of the lineup for the next few years.

By the way, Cant is Miss State's #5 player, a team that couldnt even make Athens. He beat Florida's #1 and should have beaten Ole Miss's #1. This also brings up something that I think takes away from All-American status. Miss State & USC's #5 guys played in the first round, with the winner only having to beat a player who may not have even had a .500 record at the #1 spot this season. Is that really All-American worthy? I dont think so.

Quigley-Ilyushin was another really good one. Quigley came back from an early break in the first set. There was some controversy at the end of the first set, I think Ilyushin thought there were two bad calls, but I dont know exactly what happened. We could have three seniors(Johnson, Klahn, Quigley) in the semi's.

Such a great lineup today, almost all the top men and women are in the quarterfinals. Just wish UGA would fix the video stream on Henry Field courts. Like we're watching it via dial-up modem.