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Sunday, October 7, 2012

Domijan Wins Second ITA Men's All-American Title

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Tulsa, OK--

Alex Domijan is still unbeaten on Court 1 at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center.  The University of Virginia junior captured his second ITA Men's All-American Championship with a 7-5, 6-1 victory over unseeded Peter Kobelt of Ohio State on a chilly Sunday afternoon, but his streak on that court extends back to his junior days.

Domijan won the ITF Junior Circuit B1 Pan American Closed back in 2008 on the same court, and two years later returned as a Virginia freshman to claim the 2010 All American there.

"I think that helps," said the sixth-seeded Domijan of his experience in major finals. "Before this, I've won two finals on this court, so I think that helped me. I don't know if he was a little nervous in his first big final. I don't know his past, but I would imagine so, so maybe that had something to do with it."

Kobelt admitted that although he had played in some very important dual matches, including the ITA Men's Indoor Team Championships last February, the finals of a collegiate major was new to him.

"I'd be lying if I said there wasn't any nerves, especially right at the beginning," said Kobelt, a junior. "After the second or third game though, I kind of settled in a little bit."

Kobelt saved three break points in the second game, broke Domijan in the third game and held for a 3-1 lead in the opening set. Domijan thought the first set was over when he dropped his serve given the way Kobelt was able to summon service winners when he needed them.

"I kind of thought when I lost my serve that was it, because he was serving really well in the beginning," Domijan said. "But then his first serve percentage dropped a lot and I was able to capitalize on that."

With the nearly 6-foot-8 Domijan and the nearly 6-foot-7 Kobelt facing off, long rallies were rare, and Kobelt knew that without a reliable first serve, he was at a disadvantage.

"I knew coming into the match I would have to serve well," said Kobelt, a junior from Ohio. "I couldn't seem to find a rhythm and it definitely let me down a little bit. That made it pretty tough, because Alex is so strong off the ground."

Domijan got the break back with Kobelt serving at 3-2, and Floridian began to find the range with his ground strokes, hitting through the court more regularly than he did in the first few games.  Serving at 5-5, Domijan began to trust his approach shots and began moving forward more consistently, hitting several good volleys to take a 6-5 lead.

Kobelt was unable to force a tiebreaker with a couple of errors and a good pass giving Domijan two set points. He only needed one, with Kobelt's forehand clipping the net cord and bouncing wide.

"He just made some errors to give me the break," said Domijan, who was injured last fall and was unable to defend his title. "I thought he kind of lost the first set more than I won it, I kind of thought he gave it to me."

Domijan held to open the second set, but Kobelt couldn't keep pace, finally dropping his serve in a long game that saw him save three break points but not a fourth. Trailing 3-1, Kobelt had three chances to get the break back, but Domijan saved them all, the final one with a forehand volley winner after coming in on his first serve.

Once strictly a baseliner, Domijan has found that shortening points by finishing at the net has its advantages.

"I'm too tall to play defense, I'm too big and I weigh too much," said Domijan. "Coming in helps quite a bit. It shortens the points, I feel less sore, so that's a positive. And I win sometimes," he added with a laugh.

Once Domijan secured that game, Kobelt's unforced error count mounted and he was broken in the next game. Domijan ran out to a 40-0 lead serving for the championship, but a double fault and a forehand pass by Kobelt made it 40-30. Undeterred, Domijan hit a forehand approach and started forward, and when Kobelt's backhand pass found the net, Domijan had his second major collegiate title and his 18th straight win on the Tulsa courts.

The win by Domijan keeps the winner's trophy in Charlottesville for another year, with Cavalier Mitchell Frank claiming the 2011 title last October.

Kobelt's loss in the final was disappointing to him, but he could recognize the breakthrough he had made this week in Tulsa.

"I'm going to try to build on the confidence I've built up here," said Kobelt, who mentioned his fitness level as the biggest improvement he's made to his game in the past year. "I'm going to take it back to practice, keep lifting, keep practicing, training hard and be ready for the National Indoors in New York. Hopefully, I can make another run there."

While ITA All-American titles are common for the University of Virginia, Auburn collected its first in school history when Andreas Mies and Daniel Cochrane won the doubles championship 7-6(6), 6-2 over Virginia's Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger.

Serving for the first set at 5-3, the unseeded Cochrane and Mies were unable to convert on a set point, but Mies was determined to keep his partner upbeat after dropping serve.

"I had to keep him positive, because he served well the whole tournament," said Mies, a senior from Germany. "He had one shaky service game, so I was making sure he's not getting down. I was trying to be active at the net. We're both really aggressive players and that paid off this tournament."

In the tiebreaker, Styslinger and Jenkins, also unseeded, had two set points at 6-4, but lost the final four points. Styslinger, who had disputed a first serve called long and upheld by the chair umpire at 6-7, then double faulted to end the set, threw his racquet and received a point penalty, which carried over to the second set.

"We played well at the right times in the tiebreak," said Cochrane, a junior from England. "That was huge momentum going into second, and we got off to a brilliant start, 4-0, and held our nerve."

Cochrane and Mies had never played together in a tournament before this one, so Cochrane, although suspecting they would be a good team, wasn't prepared for this level of success.

"To come here and play like we have is unbelievable," Cochrane said. "We knew we'd be good together, because our games suit each other well, but we just played better and better every match and ended up playing some pretty good doubles by the end."

"We didn't even know we were the first Auburn players who made it to the final," said Mies. "We didn't even think about going to the finals, to be honest, and to stay here today and win the trophies, it's a dream come true."

The consolation finals were played indoors due to temperatures in the upper 40s at the 10:00 a.m. starting time.

In the singles final of the tournament for those losing their first round matches, Jonas Lutjen of Ole Miss defeated Connor Smith of Ohio State 6-3, 6-4. With his victory, Lutjen will receive a spot in the main draw of the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships next month in New York.

Hernus Pieters and Ben Wagland of Georgia also earned a spot in the main draw in New York, winning the doubles consolation final match 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-1 over Columbia's Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur.

For complete draws, see the ITA tournament page.

In the ITA Women's All-American at the Riviera Tennis Club, No. 3 seed Lauren Embree of Florida ended the amazing run of pre-qualifier Julia Elbaba of Virginia with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 victory in the final. Elbaba, a freshman from New York, went 10-1 in the past nine days of competition in California. It is senior Embree's first singles title in the collegiate majors.  For more on her win, see the Florida Gatorzone website.

Top seeds Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria of Southern California won the doubles title, defeating unseeded Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar of Duke 6-2, 6-7(6), 6-3.

For complete results from the women's All-American, see the ITA tournament page.