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Saturday, May 25, 2013

NCAA Division I Final Four Decided Indoors; Three of Eight Semifinalists Unseeded

©Colette Lewis 2013--
Urbana, IL--

The NCAA individual championships are outdoor championships, but when weather forced play indoors again on Saturday, there were no complaints from Texas freshman Breaunna Addison.

Addison was down 6-1, 2-0 in her first round match with Danielle Lao, a No. 9 seed from USC, when the rain came.

"That was a big break for me," said Addison, an 18-year-old freshman, who joined the Longhorns in January. "She was playing into the wind very well, she has a really great slice and she was dipping the lob over my head. It was kind of discouraging, but when I heard we could move inside, it kind of gave me a little confidence, because I felt I was a better indoor player maybe than her. I knew I could really go for my shots, because the wind wasn't a factor, and it was just a blessing, honestly. I don't know if I'd be here if we didn't move inside."

On Saturday, Addison was barely into her match with No. 7 seed Gina Suarez-Malaguti of North Carolina, leading 3-2 when the rain settled in for the day less than 30 minutes after the noon start time.

Addison dropped the first set to the Tar Heel senior, but came back in the second, and in a tense final two games, broke and held for a 5-7, 6-1, 6-4 victory.

At 4-4 in the third, Addison broke Suarez-Malaguti, but given the numerous breaks in the match, the result was hardly settled. Serving for the match, Addison needed to save three break points, while Suarez-Malaguti saved two match points before Addison finally crushed a forehand winner for the victory.

"I knew I really had to step in," said Addison, of Boca Raton, Florida. "When I was giving her the opportunity, she was really pulling the trigger and it was paying off, because I couldn't close it out. I felt like, sure, I missed a few, but in the end it would pay off if I just kept going for my shots, trying to get in and put pressure on her."

Addison, only the third woman in Texas history to reach the semifinals, and the first since Kelly Pace in 1995, said she wasn't surprised by her performance this week.

"I didn't really have an expectations coming into this tournament," Addison said. "I'm a good player and if I believe in myself, I feel I can play with the better players in the country."

She will see how she stacks up against another top player on Sunday, when she meets Nicole Gibbs of Stanford, the defending champion.

Gibbs showed no mercy on Clemson sophomore Yana Koroleva, beating her fellow No. 9 seed 6-1, 6-1 to claim her fourth straight-set win this week.

"I had a lot of adversity through my season this year," said Gibbs, who lost to both Pac-12 rivals Sabrina Santamaria of USC and Robin Anderson of UCLA this year. "I didn't have quite as dominant of a regular season performance as I did last year, so I think coming into this tournament, I didn't have any higher expectations for myself. I just really wanted to do everything I could to get us a team title, and we accomplished that. That took a lot of weight off my shoulders and now I'm just playing good tennis, out there competing, not really thinking about defending a title right now, just thinking about whatever is up next."

The second unseeded woman in the semifinals is Alabama's Alexa Guarachi, who defeated unseeded Natalie Beazant of Rice 6-4, 1-6, 6-1 to earn her school's first appearance in the final four.

"It is amazing," said Guarachi, whose father, uncle and great grandfather were all Crimson Tide athletes. "I'm trying not to get too ahead of myself, but I'm going to celebrate the win, then get ready for doubles this afternoon."

Guarachi will be playing No. 9 seed Mary Weatherholt of Nebraska, who is also blazing a trail for her school with each win, after the senior from Kansas defeated No. 6 seed Lauren Herring of Georgia 6-2, 6-2.

"Each [win] comes as a surprise to me," said Weatherholt, who didn't play the fall season due to injury, but lost only one match this season. "There's so many good players here. I think this is probably the best match I've played so far. Personally, I felt like from the beginning I decided to stay with my plan and hit through my shots, pick the smart balls to really go for, and it worked well."

Another player who has lost only one match all season, Ohio State's Blaz Rola, was returning to the site of that loss. Last month, the junior from Slovenia lost to Illinois freshman Jared Hiltzik 6-4, 7-5, but on Saturday he replaced that Atkins Tennis Center memory with a better one, defeating No. 8 seed Henrique Cunha of Duke 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.

"After we moved inside, I had a little trouble getting my rhythm," said Rola, who was up a break in the first set when the rain arrived. "We played here, our Big Ten match, and every time I play here, I wasn't feeling 100 percent, I don't know why."

The quarterfinal match with Cunha hung in the balance in the second set, when Rola, an NCAA semifinalist in 2012 and the doubles champion with Chase Buchanan, dug out from a 0-40 hole to go up 5-4, then broke Cunha for the set.

"Even though I was down 0-40 in that service game, I felt good," Rola said. "Luckily I could turn that game around and got the momentum back. Then in the third set, I got lucky on a couple of points, got the momentum and he got down on himself, and I'm really happy that I came out on top."

Rola will play the third unseeded player in the semifinals, Tulsa's Japie De Klerk, who defeated No. 9 seed Evan King of Michigan 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 and may be spending the evening before his semifinal match with Rola washing clothes.

"To be honest, I only packed enough clothes for three matches," said the junior from South Africa, who is the first Tulsa player to ever reach the NCAA semifinals.  "I was never expecting this, and I still don't know how I won that match. I played a really solid second and third set and just got lucky on some points."

De Klerk, who at 41 was the lowest ranked player in the quarterfinals, credits his improved attitude, and his stamina, for his success this week.

"I think it's more mental for me," said De Klerk, who will be playing his second left-hander in a row on Sunday. "My game's okay, I've been improving a lot this semester, and I'm getting older, so that's helped me. And my body has been holding up quite well, so I think that's a big factor. And I've just been playing good tennis."

So has Virginia senior Jarmere Jenkins, who ended the run of Texas's Soren Hess-Olesen 6-3, 6-2 in the only two set men's quarterfinal match.  Jenkins, despite being the reigning USTA/ITA National Indoor tournament, wasn't pleased when the match was forced indoors.

"I actually prefer playing outside," said Jenkins, who is still alive for the rare NCAA triple crown of singles, doubles and team championships. "Obviously, I'm very comfortable playing indoors, but I guess I'm just used to playing outdoors after these past couple of days outside."

Like Gibbs, Jenkins feels he is playing with less pressure now that he has a team title in hand, but is trying to maintain his edge.

"My family's here and my brother keeps telling me to stay hungry," said Jenkins, the No. 3 seed. "I'm really motivated and I really want to do well and take the title." And referring to the US Open main draw wild card traditionally given to the NCAA champion if American, Jenkins added, "I have a lot of incentive to do so."

Standing in Jenkins' way is No. 9 seed Sebastian Fanselow of Pepperdine, whom Jenkins defeated in the final of the National Indoor. Fanselow, down 3-1 in the final set, came back to defeat unseeded Andreas Mies of Auburn 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 to set up the rematch with Jenkins.

"He's a great competitor," said Fanselow. "Even though last time the score (6-2, 6-1) looked pretty easy, I felt like we still had a tough match. I've got to rest up now, get fresh for tomorrow, because I'm sure it will be a long and physical match."

The doubles quarterfinals were played indoors Saturday evening, as a cold rain continued to fall outside Atkins Tennis Center.

Two players, Guarachi and Jenkins, still have hopes of sweeping the titles, as they advanced to the semifinals with close straight set wins.

Guarachi and Mary Anne Macfarlane, a No. 5 seed, defeated top seeds Kate Fuller and Silvia Garcia of Georgia 7-6(4), 7-5 and will play unseeded Robin Anderson and Skylar Morton of UCLA, who defeated No. 3 seeds Weatherholt and Patricia Veresova of Nebraska 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-6(3).

No. 2 seeds Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria of USC, are still alive for the collegiate doubles Triple crown after a 6-2, 6-0 win over unseeded Melissa Kopinski and Rachel White of Illinois. The All-American and Indoor champions quieted the large partisan crowd packed into the Atkins Center bleachers by winning the last ten games of the match. Christian and Santamaria will play No. 4 seeds Brynn Boren and Kata Szekely of Tennessee, who defeated unseeded Jacqueline Cako and Nicole Smith of Arizona State 6-2, 6-2.

Jenkins and his partner Mac Styslinger, the No. 3 seeds, meet No. 2 seeds Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler of Duke in their fourth meeting of the year.

Jenkins hit one of the shots of the tournament at 4-4 in the second set against Florida's Bob van Overbeek and Stephane Piro.  At 30-all, Jenkins ran into the adjacent, empty courts, nearly to the doubles alley and hit a shot between the umpire's chair and player bench, around the net post, no more than two feet off the ground, for a winner. They won the next point, got the break, and finished the ultra-competitive encounter 7-6(5), 6-4.

Cunha and Hemmeler, the USTA/ITA Indoor champions, beat All-American champions Mies and Daniel Cochrane of Auburn 6-2, 6-3, and have beaten Jenkins and Styslinger two of the three times they have played this year.

Unseeded Chris Camillone and David Holiner of Texas proved their win over the top seeded Tennessee team Friday was no fluke, downing Hernus Pieters and Ben Wagland of Georgia, a 5 seed, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6(3).  They will play No. 3 seeds Jonas Lutjen and Nik Scholtz of Ole Miss, who beat unseeded Vikram Hundal and Juan Spir of Georgia Tech 6-2, 6-4.

Play begins at noon on Sunday, with the men's singles semifinals, followed by the women's singles semifinals, men's doubles and women's doubles.  Rain is in the forecast for the remaining two days of the tournament.

For complete results, see the tournament page.


Austin said...

They have got to find a way to get updates indoors on a point by point basis. They have done a great job with everything else. I have to commend them for doing such a great job updating us on rain delays. Is there no way to get cameras inside? I would think they could do it since they only need them on two courts.

Very surprised by Evan King's loss yesterday, a little disappointing, thought he had a shot to win it all. And Cunha, that was a rough way to go out. I assume Rola, even though he is a junior, will be turning pro after this tournament.

Also, I know I don't follow womens tennis as close, but where on earth did Mary Weatherholt come from? I didn't even know she was American until two days ago. Was she a top junior? Never even heard the name til this season.

Colette Lewis said...

Intrigued myself with Weatherholt after seeing her play at Women's Team Indoor, I did this story on her for Tennis Recruiting Network. She is quite possibly the most positive, upbeat tennis player I have ever seen.

Joe said...

I know Illinois won the team as well as the singles and doubles a few years back but the Hoos have to at least have a shot at uncharted waters. Team titles and all three singles majors. How many have done that?

Brent said...

So bummed for Evan King. If you go out to Rola or Cunha in the semis, I think you have no regrets but tough one to lose in the quarters. Great career for U-M though and wish him the best in his shot at the Tour. I am sure he's inspired by seeing the progress that his junior running mates (Steve Johnson, Rhyne Williams, Denis Kudla) have made recently.

Flip side is so happy for Jarmere Jenkins. Seems he has always done things the right way and nice to see his patience at UVA, that abiding through those tough times has led to a potential remarkable finish to his amatuer career. Hope he can complete the triple tomorrow. I think he'll win doubles but tough matchup in singles.

Colette Lewis said...

My records show only Stanford women have done that-- all 3 majors in singles and the team title in one school year. That was 1988-89.

get real said...

Mary Weatherholt was a top junior so no surprises here