Schnur, Elbaba Take USTA/ITA Indoor Titles; Libietis and Reese Win Knoxville Challenger Doubles Championship
Virginia's Julia Elbaba and North Carolina's Brayden Schnur gave the ACC both singles champions Sunday at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
Elbaba, seeded sixth, defeated fifth seed Maegan Manasse of Cal 6-2, 7-5 to claim her first major title and the program's second, with the first captured by teammate Danielle Collins at May's NCAA championships.
Elbaba, a junior who received an ITA wild card as her entry into the field, told the ITA staff she was not interested in finishing second again.
"I got to the finals of All-Americans in my first year, so I really did want to win this one. That was the only kind of pressure I felt. I didn't want to go home as a second place runner-up again. I just used that pressure to my advantage and told myself to stick with the plan, and that's what we did."
Schnur, a sophomore from Canada, defeated Vanderbilt senior Gonzales Austin 6-4, 7-6(2) to win his first major, and the second in the program's history. Current Florida women's coach Roland Thornqvist won the Indoor title back in 1993. Schnur, who won the Carolinas regional to earn entry into the tournament, saved match points in his 6-4, 6-7(5), 7-5 first round victory over Columbia's Winston Lin.
"Winning that match and pulling that out after saving match points was probably the highlight of my tournament," Schnur told the ITA staff.
I spoke with Schnur last May at the NCAAs, and my interview with him can be found at the Tennis Recruiting Network (subscription required for full article.)
The doubles titles went to Los Angeles Pac-12 schools, with the UCLA team of Catherine Harrison and Kyle McPhillips taking the women's championship and Southern Cal's Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz claiming the men's championship.
Harrison and McPhillips, who were unseeded, beat No. 2 seeds Pleun Burgmans and Emily Flickinger of Auburn 6-2, 6-3 in the final, becoming the first Bruin women's Indoor doubles champions since Keri Phebus and Susie Starrett in 1995. They had beaten top seeds Beatrice Gumulya and Jessy Rompies of Clemson in the semifinals Saturday.
Top seeds Hanfmann and Quiroz, who defeated unseeded Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski of Illinois 6-3, 7-5 in the final, also ended a title drought for the Trojans as well. The last USC men's team to win an Indoor doubles title was Brian McPhie and Jon Leach back in 1992.
The women's singles consolation title (for first round losers) went to Florida freshman Josie Kuhlman, who defeated Zsofi Susanyi of Cal 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. The men's singles consolation title went to Baylor's Julian Lenz, who defeated Mackenzie McDonald of UCLA 7-6(2), 0-6, 6-4.
Ohio State's Kevin Metka and Ralf Steinbach won the men's (second round) doubles consolation final with a 6-3, 7-6(3) win over defending National Indoor champions Ashok Narayana and Max Schnur of Columbia. Manasse and Denise Starr of Cal won the women's (second round) doubles consolation final 7-6(5), 7-6(3) over Emina Bektas and Alex Najarian of Michigan.
Gonzales Austin of Vanderbilt and Viktoriya Lushkova of Oklahoma State won the sportsmanship awards.
For complete results, see the ITA tournament page.
The top-ranked men's doubles team in the country, Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese of Tennessee, did not play the Indoor, where they reached the final last year. Instead, the NCAA champions elected to stay home and play as wild cards in the singles and doubles of the Knoxville Challenger. Both lost in the first round of singles, but they won the doubles title today, defeating Gastao Elias of Portugal and Sean Thornley of Great Britain 6-3, 6-4 in the final. Although it was the second match in a row where the Tennessee seniors were dominant, they did face a couple of tight spots. After breaking Elias for a 4-2 first set lead, Reese went down 30-40 in the next service game, but saved both break points to take a 5-2 lead.
In the second set, Thornley was broken at 1-1 but serving at 4-3, Reese again faced a break point at deuce. As in the first set, Reese missed his first serve, but a good second serve forced Elias' return wide and they held.
Serving for the match, Libietis was impressive. He started with an ace and got every first serve in, holding at love for the victory, which was obviously a popular one with the large, partisan crowd.
For more on their title, see the Tennessee website.
No. 2 seed Adrian Mannarino of France won the singles title in Knoxville, defeating No. 3 seed Sam Groth of Australia 3-6, 7-6(6), 6-4.
At the Birmingham Futures, qualifier Julio Peralta of Chile defeated No. 3 seed Jean Yves Aubone 6-2, 6-1. Peralta also took the doubles title, with former D-III UC-Santa Cruz standout Matt Seeberger, with the No. 3 seeds defeating wild cards Alex Rybakov and Catalin Gard 6-3, 6-4 in the final.
The singles final of the women's $50K in Captiva was rained out and will be played Monday. The doubles final was completed, with top seeds Gabriela Dabrowski of Canada and Anna Tatishvili beating No. 2 seeds Asia Muhammad and Maria Sanchez 6-3, 6-3.
I will be going to the final Challenger of the USTA Pro Circuit next week at the University of Illinois in Champaign, and am planning to be there Tuesday. The final round of qualifying is Monday, with Wake Forest's Noah Rubin taking on Virginia's Alexander Ritschard. Illinois freshman Aleksandar Vukic is also in the final round of qualifying as are former Florida Gators Sekou Bangoura and Greg Ouellette. 2013 NCAA champion Blaz Rola is the No. 3 seed and will play his first round match in the main draw tomorrow, as will wild card Jared Hiltzik, the Illinois junior. Hiltzik plays former Duke star Henrique Cunha, who beat Hiltzik in the second round of the NCAA singles championship in 2013. Former Illini Rajeev Ram is also on Monday's schedule.
This is the final tournament of the USTA's Australian Open Wild Card Challenge, but since no American has won either of the previous two Challengers, the race is far from over. Mannarino and Malek Jaziri of Tunisia are the top two seeds.