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Friday, February 13, 2015

Drama on Day One of ITA Men's Team Indoor

©2015 Jonathan Kelley for zootennis.com
Chicago IL--

The scene after Columbia's game penalty
I suppose any time you have 72 tennis matches played in one location in one day, you’re bound to have your share of dramatic moments and controversial incidents. But there’s no doubt that Day One of the ITA National Indoor Team Championships had at least its share - and perhaps a bit more.

The contest that had the most contentiousness was the final one of the night, between Manny Diaz’s #4 seeded University of Georgia squad and Bid Goswami’s senior-laden Columbia team, seeded #13. After Georgia’s Ben Wagland and Austin Smith won 6-3 over Max Schnur and Ashok Narayana to secure what proved to be a hugely important doubles point, Columbia stormed back in singles with straight-set wins for Bert Vancura at 5, #13-ranked Winston Lin (over #17 Wayne Montgomery) at 1, and Shawn Hadavi at 6 bookending a lone straight-set win for Georgia’s #15 Nathan Pasha at 2.

Georgia had to be feeling comfortable with big leads in the third set at both 2 and 4. And indeed, Bulldog Nick Wood reached match point over Narayana at #4 while his teammate Austin Smith was up 5-1 on Dragos Ignat on #2. However, on said match point, Narayana hit a deep ball that Wood called out. What happened next was not entirely clear.

Narayana, along with his entire team, was incensed and the senior captain shouted a very audible obscenity. He was given a point penalty by the umpire for this, to be assessed on court #2, the only other match going on. An additional game penalty was then added by Anthony Montero, the tournament referee. However, he explained to the coaches that he would wait to enforce the penalty until the end of the game. Columbia’s Ignat broke Smith to bring the score to 2-5, and was then told that he had lost 6-2 due to the penalty. He was nonplussed and his teammates protested, to no avail, to let the two finish the match.

In the end, Goswami had a measured response to the result. “I think we lost our cool. We hit a ball that everybody thought was in, it just happened to be match point. In the heat of the moment, you say a word, you know? It’s unfortunate. We fought very hard, and hopefully we’ll learn from this.”

Another top team that had anything but an easy time of it was the #2-seeded University of Oklahoma, which beat #15 seed Mississippi 4-1.John Roddick’s 2014 NCAA runner-ups surged to a 3-0 lead thanks to a strong 2-0 showing in doubles and straight set wins by Dane Webb at #3 and Alex Ghilea at #5. Nik Scholtz finally put Ole Miss on the board with an upset of Andrew Harris at #1. The big South African took the last 4 points of the tiebreak to win 7-5, then took the second set 6-2. 

“Nik has won a lot of matches, he’s been a top player for a long time,” said Roddick. “Harris is also a top player. You win some of those, you lose some of those. Indoors, Nik, as big as he is, it’s probably a bit of an advantage for him. I don’t think you go in saying we have to win 1, or we expect to, especially against a player like Nik.”

Roddick continued, “We did a good job of putting ourselves in position, when it did get close, we only needed one and they still had to get three. Certainly teams, ourselves included, lose matches like that, and Ole Miss did a really good job of giving themselves a chance to win the match in the end.”

With a set lead at #6 singles and Alvarez and Lindmark at 5-5 in the third at #2 singles, freshman Spencer Papa’s match against Ole Miss’ William Kallberg at #4, just entering a third-set tiebreaker, became the center stage. Papa, who initially had signed with Tulsa before joining the Sooners last month, got behind 2-5 and (according to a spectator) called a couple of close balls out that Kallberg protested, but the chair umpire did not overturn. At 7-7, Kallberg double faulted and then a big serve from Papa helped secure Oklahoma’s spot in the quarterfinals.

“I was pretty much on court 4 that whole match,” said Roddick “We had a break lead twice in the third, and Kallberg did a great job of fighting back. It wasn’t very many mental errors from us - I think we made maybe one in the span of four or five points. In the third set, both guys did a good job of getting first serve returns in and then just trying to work their way back into the point, and that’s certainly what Kallberg did to break back twice. Then we were down 5-2 in the third set breaker.”

Roddick continued, “If you want to play at a higher level, when you get those leads you’ve got to close the door. I think both guys can probably learn a lesson from that, certainly I know Spencer can. He’s young, so hopefully he can start learning those lessons now. And that’s what you expect - you don’t expect young guys to come in and just hammer the door shut every time yet, they’ve got to learn how to do that. It’s a process. And matches like that go a long way towards doing that.”

Host Illinois won a close doubles point in sweep of Cal
The University of Illinois (5) had the house rockin’ as they bulldozed to a 4-0 win over California. After the two teams split at #1 and #3 doubles the point came down to #2, which went to a tiebreak after Jared Hiltzik saved two match points on his serve. On the first point of the tiebreak, yet more drama ensued as someone in the crowd yelled “footfault!” during the tall, blonde, Swedish Cal player’s second serve, perhaps contributing to a double fault. The Golden Bears protested but the call stood, and Hiltzik and Gosea closed out the tiebreaker 7-3. In singles, breakout freshman Aleks Vukic got out to a huge lead and held on to beat Oskar Wikberg at #5, Tim Kopinski d. Billy Griffith at #3, and Aron Hiltzik secured the win at #4 - all three matches were won in straight sets.

Earlier in the day, the University of Virginia showed the strength at the top of its lineup as they took out Texas Christian University 4-0. TCU got off to a slow start in all three doubles matches, down 2-5 in each, but toward the end started turning things around dramatically and it took a tiebreak win by #2 doubles team Mac Styslinger and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski to seal the point.

Virginia coach Brian Boland said, “I believe it's always tough to play your first round of a tournament, particularly against a team as solid across the board as TCU. They’re an outstanding team and I thought it was good for our team to struggle at times.”

Regarding getting three wins in the top three singles spots, Boland remarked, “I believe in our top three singles players of course, they’re playing good tennis, they have all year. But at the same time, TCU is strong all the way across the lineup, and so we had to come ready to play at every position. A little bit of a surprise - I really believe that TCU can play with anyone.”

Of note, freshman Collin Altamirano did not play singles for the Cavaliers. “We just thought we’d rest him today,” commented Boland. “He’s been out for a little bit so we’re trying to take our time getting him back in. He’s healthy but we feel like we have a deep team and we can play some different guys and so that’s a luxury we have and we want to make sure we take advantage of it.”

TCU coach Dave Roditi was sanguine about the loss.

“I didn’t think it was rough at all. We lose the doubles point in a tiebreaker, and at 4, 5 & 6. we were about to win at 4 and we were even - just starting the third sets at 5 and 6, so absolutely not rough at all. I’m proud of our team. Obviously we were playing a very good, very well-coached team, over the last 10 years one of the best programs in the nation, historically one of the best indoor teams. Here we come, Horned Frogs haven’t been here in 15 years, next thing you know we get down 5-2 - we just had a slow start in doubles. 

"They came out better out of the chute than we did, maybe that’s due to the fact that they’ve been here before, so give them all the credit in the world. when you‘re the underdog you want that doubles point. I mean, that’s a tough lineup, right? You’ve got the #1 player in the nation playing 3, and you’ve got “The Machine” Mitchell Frank at 1 - who wouldn’t love to have Mitchell Frank leading your team out there? A lot of credit to them, they deserved it, but by no means did I feel we were outmatched in any way.”

Did no-warmup affect TCU’s ability to start well?

“No - we were just a little hesitant, maybe a little nervous, anxious - it’s exciting for us to be here, it showed in the beginning. But once we settled down, we were right there, right? We came back from 5-2 on every single court, and they played a great tiebreaker - Mac hit two of the best volleys I’ve seen in college tennis in the last two points.”

Kwiatkowski noted, “We had an opportunity to close it out at 5-3 but TCU played a very good game to break and there was not much we could do, they just hit very good returns. And then we played a really solid tiebreaker, Mac came up with a few really good returns, he served well, and we were lucky to get that doubles point, and then everyone had a lot of momentum for singles, and we just kind of rolled.”

Top seed USC had the easiest go of the day, a 4-0 win over 16 seed Penn State that was most notable for being able to see Sergei Stakhovsky’s brother Leo, a talented player who took #7 to a second set tiebreak at the No. 1 position.

10 seed Baylor had the only upset of the first round, as they beat 6 seed Duke 4-1. After Baylor won the doubles point, the teams split the top two singles matches, with Peruvian Duke freshman Nicolas Alvarez (ranked 9th) showing  powerful groundstrokes to take down #10 Julian Lenz 6-4, 6-2. But Baylor quickly got revenge at #1, with French newcomer Max Tchoutakian winning a tense first set against Jason Tahir, 9-7 in a tiebreak, and securing a break at 5-4 in the second.

Another win at #6 by Vince Schneider put Baylor in the driver’s seat and #27 Tony Lupieri had the honors of crossing the finish line with a 6-3, 6-7(2), 6-2 win over Raphael Hemmeler.

The University of North Carolina overcame the loss of the doubles point to beat #10 seed UCLA 4-2, despite not having the services of Esben Hess-Olesen at 4. The bottom of their lineup performed great in his absence, with wins at 4, 5 and 6. Local favorite Martin Redlicki overcame a set deficit at 3 to give UCLA some hope, and Mackenzie McDonald had a break lead in the third at 1 over Brayden Schnur, but Ronnie Schneider at 2 would not be denied against Dennis Mkrtchian.

There was a bit of a kurfuffle in this one, as it appeared that Mkrtchian wanted a let after a ball from 1 singles rolled behind him just as he was about to hit a shot. His shot was well out and the umpire did not call a let. When Schnur tried to retrieve the ball, there was some yelling. A fired-up Mkrtchian held for 3-5 but Schneider held at love to give UNC its ticket to the Round of Eight.

Finally, Ohio State vs. Texas was the match to watch, as they traded matches for a 3-3 tie and it came down to #6 singles -- and the man they call “The Beast,” Kevin Metka. Shouting “Go Bucks” after every point, win or lose (heck, after ever serve, made or missed), Metka lost his first set vs. Texas freshman John Mee 5-7, but dominated the second set 6-1 with his aggressive net-rushing game. The third set stayed on serve throughout as the crowd slowly grew (and grew more vocally pro-OSU). Finally at 5-5, 15-40, Metka secured the break with a flailing volley that Mee mishit into the roof. He held comfortably to secure the win for OSU.

“It’s always a dogfight with Texas," said head coach Ty Tucker.  "We had a senior on a freshman on the last court and that’s probably the thing that made us advance. Everytime we play Texas it’s very tight. It comes down to half an inch here and half an inch there.”

When asked to describe Metka, Tucker said, “He’s kind of a circus freak, you don’t see a guy like that, kind of like the three-pound horse. He brings it at you all the time - all the time - he’s got the most positive energy. Loses a point, yells “GO BUCKS,” wins a point, yells “GO BUCKS” but most importantly he makes you hit 120 passing shots during the day. He’s a good indoor player with a tricky lefty serve.”

The ITA tournament page can be found here.  College Tennis Today has a preview of Saturday's quarterfinals here.
Men’s Team Indoor Championships 1st round
Feb 13, 2015
#1 Southern California 4, #22 Penn State 0
1. #7 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. #81 Leo Stakhovsky (PSU) 6-1, 7-6(4)
2. #24 Roberto Quiroz (USC) def. Alex Fennell (PSU) 6-3, 6-1
3. #20 Jonny Wang (USC) vs. Matt Barry (PSU) 6-4, 3-3, unfinished
4. Eric Johnson (USC) def. Roman Trkulja (PSU) 6-1, 6-2
5. #104 Max De Vroome (USC) vs. Aws Laaribi (PSU) 7-5, 5-1, unfinished
6. #49 Nick Crystal (USC) vs. Thomas Hanzlik (PSU) 6-2, 5-3, unfinished

1. #1 Yannick Hanfmann/Roberto Quiroz (USC) vs. Leo Stakhovsky/Aws Laaribi (PSU) 5-6, unfinished
2. #38 Max De Vroome/Eric Johnson (USC) def. Alex Fennell/Matt Barry (PSU) 6-4
3. Nick Crystal/Connor Farren (USC) def. Roman Trkulja/Mike Reilly (PSU) 6-4

Order of finish: Doubles (3,2); Singles (2,4,1)

Men’s Team Indoor Championships 1st round
Feb 13, 2015
#8 Ohio State 4, #9 Texas 3
1. #16 Soren Hess-Olesen (TEXAS) def. #53 Chris Diaz (OSU) 6-4, 6-2
2. Lloyd Glasspool (TEXAS) def. #30 Mikal Torpegaard (OSU) 7-6(4), 6-4
3. #65 Adrien Berkowicz (TEXAS) def. Herkko Pollanen (OSU) 6-7(3), 6-3, 6-2
4. #68 Ralf Steinbach (OSU) def. Nick Naumann (TEXAS) 6-2, 2-6, 7-5
5. #110 Hunter Callahan (OSU) def. George Goldhoff (TEXAS) 6-1, 6-2
6. Kevin Metka (OSU) def. John Mee (TEXAS) 5-7, 6-1, 7-5

1. #7 Ralf Steinbach/Kevin Metka (OSU) def. Soren Hess-Olesen/Lloyd Glasspool (TEXAS) 6-3
2. George Goldhoff/Adrien Berkowicz (TEXAS) def. #36 Hunter Callahan/Chris Diaz (OSU) 6-4
3. Mikal Torpegaard/Herkko Pollanen (OSU) def. Michael Riechmann/Adrian Ortiz (TEXAS) 7-6(6)

Order of finish: Doubles (1,2,3); Singles (5,1,2,4,3,6)

Men’s Team Indoor Championships 1st round
Feb 13, 2015
#5 Illinois 4, #13 California 0
1. #41 Farris Gosea (ILL) vs. #42 Andre Goransson (CAL) 6-2, 5-4, unfinished
2. #23 Jared Hiltzik (ILL) vs. #114 Filip Bergevi (CAL) 3-6, 5-4, unfinished
3. #37 Tim Kopinski (ILL) def. Billy Griffith (CAL) 6-3, 6-4
4. #69 Aron Hiltzik (ILL) def. JT Nishimura (CAL) 7-5, 6-1
5. #46 Aleks Vukic (ILL) def. Oskar Wikberg (CAL) 6-1, 6-4
6. Toshiki Matsuya (ILL) vs. Gregory Bayane (CAL) 6-3, 3-6, unfinished
1. #11 Tim Kopinski/Ross Guignon (ILL) def. #30 Gregory Bayane/Chase Melton (CAL) 6-3
2. Jared Hiltzik/Farris Gosea (ILL) def. #32 Andre Goransson/Oskar Wikberg (CAL) 7-6(3)
3. Filip Bergevi/Mads Engsted (CAL) def. Blake Bazarnik/Brian Page (ILL) 6-3

Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (5,3,4)
Men’s Team Indoor Championships 1st round
Feb 13, 2015
#4 Georgia 4, #15 Columbia 3
1. #13 Winston Lin (COLUMBIA) def. #17 Wayne Montgomery (GA) 6-2, 6-4
2. #21 Austin Smith (GA) def. #76 Dragos Ignat (COLUMBIA) 6-4, 1-6, 6-2
3. #15 Nathan Pasha (GA) def. Max Schnur (COLUMBIA) 6-4, 6-3
4. Nick Wood (GA) def. Ashok Narayana (COLUMBIA) 1-6, 6-0, 6-2
5. Bert Vancura (COLUMBIA) def. Ben Wagland (GA) 6-1, 6-3
6. Shawn Hadavi (COLUMBIA) def. Paul Oosterbaan (GA) 6-3, 6-2
1. Ben Wagland/Austin Smith (GA) def. Max Schnur/Ashok Narayana (COLUMBIA) 6-3
2. Mike Vermeer/Winston Lin (COLUMBIA) def. Nathan Pasha/Eric Diaz (GA) 6-3
3. Paul Oosterbaan/Wayne Montgomery (GA) def. Bert Vancura/Dragos Ignat (COLUMBIA) 6-1

Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (5,3,1,6,4,2)

The results of the four earlier matches are in the previous post.


Wendy Lyon said...

In over 40 years of watching and playing tennis, I have never heard of assessing a penalty to a player in another match who had nothing to do with the alleged reason for the penalty. This is plain wrong.
As a lawyer, this goes against any notions of justice and fairness. There s a basic principle: You don't punish Joe for the alleged infractions of Bill.
Dargos ignat had broken his opponent and was down 5-2 in the last set. This set have have continued until the players finished it, not the authorities. An injustice was done to both players still playing who had nothing to do with the alleged incident on another court.
As to the alleged infraction, the referees have to give the players some room to express their emotions.
To say that the referee handled this situation poorly is an understatement.

Bill K said...

You stated you are a lawyer, thus are required to enforce the rule of law. In team tennis competition, what happened in that match on one court with an assessed penalty does go to the next match. It happens occasionally. It is the rule in team tennis on the ITA and NCAA level. I've seen it happen in dual matches, the SEC tournament and at several NCAA tournaments as well.

Matt Litsky said...

It is no surprise that Coach Goswami gave a measured response. He is a class act for all of his roughly 34 years of coaching.

Dave said...

Wendy, did you play college tennis? Those are the ITA rules...not sure what your experience as a lawyer has anything to do with this. Anybody playing college tennis is aware that one player can be penalized for a teammate's transgressions. It is unfortunate that it would occur at such a critical stage, and if there were indeed bad line calls made by Georgia, it is a shame those were not overruled by the same officials--but you can't blame the tournament ref for enforcing a rule just because you don't like the rule--any lawyer should understand that!

Russ said...

Great atmosphere here in Chicago. Of all the National Indoors I've been to this has been the best, with the biggest crowds and best viewing. It's not perfect and they definitely could the live scoring better, but compared to Houston and Seattle (the two previous years) the energy is super.

love-tennis said...

Just food for thought....it was Coach Manny who suspended his own player last year for poor behavior, and UGA had a terrible rest of the tournament due to that missing player. He too is a class act.

Jim Sturtevant said...

Wendy, if it was up to a lawyer ruling on the infraction, we'd get the decision next year.
As a fan from afar, the draw should be kept up to date. An asterisk should show who's serving. Match scores are very slow in being posted. Ga's doubles point wasn't posted until we were in the second set of singles. Also, I haven't been able to get video on courts 1-7. I haven't checked today yet.
If no-add must be used, do away with playing let serves. Officials correct calls all the time and have ears in addition to eyes. They can change a fake let call on an ace serve.

Pepperdine said...

good call Jim….get rid of playing the "Let" with the No-Ad in Men's College Tennis …the chair ump can call the let and not the player….your thought is an "Ace" :)