Top-ranked Thompson Falls to Cid as Seeds Struggle on Opening Day of NCAA Division I Individual Championships
It's safe to say you can expect the unexpected in the first round of the NCAA individual tournament, which gives none of the players, including those in Tuesday's team final, any time to recover from the emotional and physical demands of the team tournament.
Those in the team final are given late starts, so the women's top two seeds, North Carolina's Jamie Loeb and UCLA's Robin Anderson, have yet to take the court, but already three of the top four men's seeds are out, including top seed Clay Thompson of UCLA.
The upsets came early and often, with No. 3 seed Julian Lenz of Baylor falling to No. 54 Andrew Adams of South Carolina 6-1, 6-3 in a 9 a.m. match, followed closely by No. 4 Julia Elbaba's 6-2, 6-2 loss to No. 51 Krista Hardebeck of Stanford.
Hardebeck had had a difficult sophomore season playing No. 2 for the Cardinal and had lost all three of her matches in the team competition in straight sets, but she took Wednesday match as a fresh start.
"I really haven't had the best season and my team unfortunately lost in the semis, so I just figured I'd go out there, give it my all, just swing away, because at this point I really have nothing to lose," Hardebeck said. I don't think she played her best today, unfortunately, but that worked to my advantage."
Hardebeck, who played a key role in Stanford's team title in 2013, felt the 4-3 loss to North Carolina keenly.
"The teams, we all wanted it so bad, especially when you're defending champion," said Hardebeck, who said her win over Elbaba was her best this season. "I already knew what it felt like to win, and I wanted it so bad, so it was really, really disappointing for all of us. But I just said, well, I'm not fighting for a team anymore, I'm right back out there by myself, and it almost feels like a summer tournament to me. I hardly feel like this is a college tournament anymore, I've just been playing team so much."
UCLA's Mackenzie McDonald had had the opposite results from Hardebeck in the team tournament, winning two matches and leading in an unfinished one, but his draw in his first NCAA individual tournament was not a great one: No. 4 seed Mitchell Frank of Virginia. McDonald, a freshman, had gotten a wild card into the All-Americans in Tulsa last October and drawn Frank in the first round, losing to the Cavalier junior 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-2, with Frank going on to win the tournament.
"I was pretty excited to play Mitchell again," said McDonald, who closed out a tough last game, saving a set point en route to a 6-2, 7-5 victory. "I lost to him at the beginning of the year and this is the end of the year. I thought it would be a great match to see improvements, to see where I am, and I'm really happy to pull it out, because it shows me I've improved, gotten better since the start of the year."
McDonald was relieved to finish off Frank in two sets.
"The difference between Mitchell and a lot of players is that he's always in every single point," said McDonald. "That last service game I played was really tight and I'm really happy I was able to keep my focus because every point counts against him. He can change things around pretty quickly, he's a good player."
The early start time was a challenge for McDonald, but it did keep him out of the worst of the Georgia heat, which made it first real appearance Wednesday, with temperatures near 90.
"I've eaten breakfast later than my match time every single day since I've been here," McDonald said. "This is the earliest I've been up in a couple of weeks. It was tough getting up, but I got out there and I was really pumped on the match. I was ready."
McDonald's teammate and No. 2 seed Marcos Giron had no difficulty with Tennessee's Hunter Reese, but top-ranked and No. 1 seed Clay Thompson couldn't solve University of South Florida's Roberto Cid, dropping his afternoon match 6-3, 6-3.
Cid, a sophomore playing his first season of college tennis, knew he was facing a challenge against Thompson, who serves and volleys as much as possible.
"We saw him earlier this week when he played in the team championships, so my coach and I sat down and talked about it," said Cid. "We talked about the tactics I had to do, what I had to do in order to be successful today, and I think I did great on that, and I'm very excited."
Cid, who has already played five Davis Cup ties for his home country of the Dominican Republic, winning two matches in five attempts, said his unexpected win today was one of the highlights of his tennis career.
"I did work hard all year for this tournament. It's definitely a great achievement to beat the No. 1 guy in the country," said Cid, 20. "I'm very excited for what's coming. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
In addition to Thompson, Lenz and Frank, No. 6 seed Alex Domijan ended his outstanding career at Virginia with a loss, going out to No. 38 Leandro Toledo of Minnesota 6-7(4), 7-6(12), 6-4.
Number 9 seed Brayden Schnur of North Carolina, who was named ITA Rookie of the Year at yesterday's award banquet, lost to Alex Sarkissian of Pepperdine in a thriller on court 1. Sarkissian saved a match point in the third set tiebreaker, whipping a forehand passing shot past Schnur, who was serving at 6-5. Schnur then double faulted, and on Sakissian's first match point sent a backhand long for a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6) victory. Sakissian, ranked 28th, had reached the round of 16 in 2013.
Other women's seeds falling were No. 9 seeds Emina Bektas of Michigan and Cristina Stancu of Texas A&M. Lynn Chi of Cal saved a match point in the second set tiebreaker to defeat Bektas 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, while 2012 semifinalist Zsofi Susanyi, also of Cal, beat Stancu 6-0, 6-4.
Because I am attending the ITA Men's College Hall of Fame dinner this evening to see former Kalamazoo College coach and National tournament director Timon Corwin's induction, I will not be staying until the end of tonight's singles. I hope to update all results later this evening.
UPDATE: 11:00 PM
With the completion of the day's matches, only five seeds remain in the men's tournament, No. 2 Marcos Giron of UCLA and four 9 seeds:
Peter Kobelt of Ohio State, Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas, Nik Scholtz of Ole Miss and Winston Lin of Columbia, who was seeded when Kentucky's Tom Jomby was unable to compete due to injury. Two seeds--No. 5 Guillermo Alcorta and No. 7 Axel Alvarez of Oklahoma--withdrew, with alternates taking their places. Sooners Dane Webb and Andrew Harris both won their first round matches. USC's Yannick Hanfmann and Raymond Sarmiento both lost, while Roberto Quiroz withdrew. USC's Jonny Wang, who did not play in the team tournament, is the only Trojan remaining in singles.
The women's seeds playing into the evening all advanced, including all four UCLA players in the draw--Robin Anderson(2), Jennifer Brady(8), Chanelle Van Nguyen(9-16) and Kyle McPhillips. North Carolina's Jamie Loeb(1) and Hayley Carter(7) won their first round matches in straight sets, while Caroline Price lost in three to Van Nguyen.
Complete draws, with times for Thursday's singles and doubles matches, can be found at georgiadogs.com.