UCLA Men Breeze Past USC to Claim Pac-12 Title; Rain Makes Mess of SEC Tournaments and Pro Circuit Events
Expectations for a close match were understandable when the UCLA men hosted USC this afternoon in Los Angeles. After all, in the previous two meetings this dual match season, they had split 4-3 decisions decided in third-set tiebreakers. Although the score today again ended 4-3, the final two matches were decided in USC's favor in match tiebreakers, well after UCLA's Dennis Novikov clinched for the Bruins.
The possibility for another tight one loomed when USC took number 3 doubles, with Eric Johnson and Max de Vroome beating Alex Brigham and Dennis Mkrtchian 8-3, while UCLA took No. 1 doubles, with Dennis Novikov and Marcos Giron beating Yannick Hanfmann and Raymond Sarmiento 8-6. The point went to the Trojans when Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz defeated Adrien Puget and Karue Sell at No. 2 doubles 8-6.
Once singles started however, it was all UCLA. The Bruins had big leads on almost all courts and when Gomez retired to Giron trailing 6-0, 2-0 at No. 2 singles, the score was quickly 1-1. Twenty minutes later UCLA's Clay Thompson defeated Johnson 6-2, 6-3 at No. 5, and less than five minutes after that Puget downed Hanfmann 6-1, 6-4 at line 3. By then, Novikov was serving for his match with Sarmiento at No. 1, and he took it 6-4, 6-2, giving UCLA an insurmountable 4-1 lead and the regular season Pac-12 title.
It's true that USC was not completely healthy. Gomez was obviously injured, with the UCLA twitter account speculating it might have been his shoulder, and de Vroome is still recovering from a broken wrist on his non-racquet hand sustained during practice a few weeks ago. If the injuries are not severe, both could be ready for yet another meeting between the two teams next week in the final of the Pac-12 conference tournament at Ojai. And then there's the NCAAs next month, of course.
The USC women defeated UCLA 6-1 last night to finish an undefeated Pac-12 season and claim the conference title and the NCAA berth that goes with it, as the women do not have a team tournament at Ojai, just the individual one.
Today in Berkeley, the Cal women defeated Stanford 4-3, avenging a 6-1 loss to the Cardinal last month in Palo Alto. Zsofi Susanyi, who has been out with an injury since the Team Indoor and returned only a week or so ago, is returning at the No. 3 position, rather than her customary place at the top of the lineup. Stanford won the doubles point but the Bears got wins from Lynn Chi at line 4, Susanyi at 3 and Tayler Davis at 5, and Annie Gorransson at 6, after Nicole Gibbs of Stanford had beaten Anett Schutting at No. 1, for a 4-2 lead. Stanford's Kristie Ahn defeated Klara Fabikova at No. 2 after the match was decided.
The SEC men's and women's tournaments have been off to grueling starts, with the weather making for a very late night/early morning finish in Oxford, where the Kentucky men beat Mississippi State in a match that finished after 2 a.m. CDT. There are only three indoor courts at Mississippi. In Starkville, where Mississippi State is hosting and the women are playing, heavy rain caused damage to a court that was eventually repaired but that and lengthy matches have pushed the scheduled quarterfinal between Vanderbilt and Florida back several hours. That winner will play Texas A&M, while Georgia and Alabama will meet in the other women's semifinal.
One of Saturday's men's semifinals will feature Tennessee against Florida. Alabama pulled off a big upset Thursday night, defeating host Mississippi 4-3, but were beaten by Texas A&M today. The Aggies await the winner of the Georgia - Kentucky match, still going as of 9 p.m.
More rain disrupted the Dothan Pro Circuit event, with only Irina Falconi, with a surprising 6-0, 6-0 win over Jessica Pegula, secure in the semifinals when play was called for the day.
In the $15,000 Futures in Little Rock, rain washed out play on Thursday, so two rounds were played today. Austin Krajicek(4) will play Darien King(8) of Barbados in one semifinal, while two young Australians, Ben Mitchell(5) and Luke Saville(2) will play for a place in the final.
At the $100,000 Sarasota Open, Wayne Odesnik and Alex Kuznetsov are the Americans reaching the semifinals, giving them a boost in the French Open wild card race. Kuznetsov, a qualifier, beat Steve Johnson 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 and will play former NCAA champion Somdev Devvarman in the semifinals. Devvarman and partner Ilija Bozoljac of Serbia, who were qualifiers, will play the unseeded team of Johnson and Bradley Klahn in the doubles final. Odesnik, the No. 8 seed and the only seed remaining, will play Denys Molchanov of Ukraine in the other singles semifinal.