©Colette Lewis 2013--
Mitchell Frank is now 3-for-3 in collegiate major finals, and his team, the Virginia Cavaliers, has now won the past four ITA Men's All American championships after the 2011 champion defeated unseeded Guillermo Alcorta of Oklahoma 6-3, 6-0 Sunday morning at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the campus of the University of Tulsa.
Frank, who was unable to defend his title last year due to a knee injury, has alternated titles with teammate Alex Domijan, the 2010 and 2012 champion. The two have never competed in Tulsa in the same year, with Domijan, now a senior, out with an injury in 2011, and unable to compete this year due to a death in the family.
"Obviously for me it's special," said Frank, a junior from Annandale, Virginia. "At this time last year I was barely walking, so to win this event is incredible. Four in a row for Virginia just goes to show the success of the program that Coach Boland, Andres Pedroso and Scott Brown run. And trainer Tim, I would have been lost without him. I'm very grateful to be in the program, and I think we've been able to show it's the best program in the country."
With his experience, Frank, who also won the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in 2011, had an advantage over Alcorta, who was playing in his first major final. Frank looked comfortable from the outset, despite a chilly north wind that required patience.
If nerves were a factor for Alcorta, they didn't show in the first four games, with both players holding serve and keeping errors to a minimum. But with Alcorta serving at 2-2, three unforced errors and a return winner by Frank put him in the lead to stay, helped by the fact he didn't face a break point in the entire match.
"I got a break here with the wind and served pretty well," said Frank. "I was able to hold easily on my serve throughout the whole day. The first set was kind of a tough one, and I thought he would come out strong in the second, but when I got that early break, I think he kind of lost it a little bit, broke his will a little bit, so that helped me get through in the second."
Alcorta admitted the path back into the match eluded him.
"I knew last night it was going to be tough," said the senior from Bilbao, Spain. "He's the kind of guy that he doesn't miss one ball, he's very strong in the mind. He played very well, and it was difficult to damage him. He takes all the benefits from the wind, and he never gives you anything for free, so I think that was the key to the match."
Alcorta has a one-handed backhand, but he typically hits very few of them, running around to his forehand whenever possible. Although Frank was dealing with a cut on his left hand he got from running into the electronic scoreboard during the third round, his two-hander was the better of the two shots on that side today.
"I was trying to get him to hit as many as I could, but still spread him out to the forehand," said Frank. "He hits his forehand great from the middle to the backhand corner, so I was trying to get him wide on the forehand and use that to open up the backhand. I feel like I did a pretty good job, and luckily he missed a few more slices than he usually does, but the wind is tough, so getting as many balls to the backhand as I was able to, I was happy with that."
Frank is not given to displaying much emotion, but he was all smiles when talking about his performance.
"I was happy with the way I played," said Frank. "It's obviously a very exciting moment; not too many people get to play these matches, so for me to be three for three in college finals is very fulfilling."
Frank will be looking for his fourth major next month at the Indoors in New York, but in just a day or two he will be competing in the Tiburon Challenger against none other than his childhood friend Denis Kudla, the top seed.
Frank, who was granted a wild card into the $100,000 tournament in the San Francisco area on Saturday, hasn't played Kudla since beating him in the ISC-Carson back in 2009, when they were both 16.
"It should be a fun match," said Frank, who trained with Kudla at the Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, Md., throughout their junior careers. "Obviously we're great friends, I talk with him all the time. I have the utmost respect for him. He's done incredible and it shows where hard work can take you. I'll be ready to battle."
Frank doesn't expect to hear from Kudla prior to their match in Tiburon.
"I haven't heard from him, and I'm not expecting to either," said Frank. "I'm pretty sure I'm getting shut off for the next couple of days."
The doubles final came down to a third set tiebreaker, with top seeds Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese of Tennessee determined to win it in honor of the Volunteer football's team crushing overtime loss to Georgia yesterday. They did, coming from 5-2 down in the final set to beat unseeded qualifiers Marcos Giron and Mackenzie McDonald of UCLA 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(2) for the championship.
"That's what Mikelis said to me before the tiebreaker," said Reese, a junior from Kennesaw, Ga. "Hey, let's win this for Tennessee football."
"I did not remember it until the tiebreak," admitted Libietis, a junior from Latvia. "Then I said, Reesey, remember we said we were going to win this for Tennessee football."
That pep talk might have come in handy earlier in the third set, when Reese dropped his serve and Giron held to give UCLA a 4-1 lead. Two holds later it was 5-2, but Reese held to put the pressure on freshman McDonald to serve out the match. A couple of excellent lobs by Reese gave Tennessee two break points at 15-40, and McDonald netted a forehand to make it 5-4. Three more holds led to a tiebreaker which would decide the championship for the first time tournament history.
Libietis and Reese got the first mini break of Giron for 3-1 and played relaxed and confident tennis the rest of the way. With Tennessee leading 5-2, McDonald needed to hold his two serves to put the pressure back on Tennessee, but he lost both points, to set off a celebration on the other side of the net.
"We had to make them win the match," said Libietis. "If they can beat us, then we'd shake their hands and say good match," added Reese. "But we weren't ready to go home without a win, just stepped it up I guess."
Libietis and Reese are the third Tennessee team to capture an All American doubles title, with Shelby Cannon and Byron Talbot winning in 1986, and JP Smith and Boris Conkic taking the championship in 2009.
"I was on the team with JP and Boris when I redshirted and got to learn a lot from them," said Reese. "They all come back, JP, Rhyne (Williams), Tennys (Sandgren), Boris came back and coached us for a semester, so we've had them all around and gotten to work with them. We've learned a ton. Chris (Woodruff), our assistant coach, loves doubles, he's very passionate about it. It's part of Tennessee, we do it a lot, and we got to prove it today."
The finals of the consolation tournaments, for competitors who lost in the first round, were played Sunday, with the winners gaining entry into the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships next month in New York.
In singles, UCLA's Clay Thompson defeated Alabama's Daniil Proskura 6-4, 7-5, and in doubles, Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon of Illinois defeated Lloyd Glasspool and Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas 6-4, 0-6, 6-1.
Complete draws can be found at the ITA tournament website.
At the ITA Women's Riviera All-American Championships in Pacific Palisades Calif., North Carolina freshman Jamie Loeb won her 11th match in nine days, defeating top seed Robin Anderson of UCLA 6-4, 6-0 in the final. After three wins in pre-qualifying, three wins in qualifying and five wins in the main draw, Loeb claimed North Carolina's first major college singles championship. Anderson did take home a winner's trophy however, teaming with freshman Jennifer Brady to take the doubles title over USC's Zoe Scandalis and Giuliana Olmos 6-4, 6-2.
See the ITA tournament page for complete draws.