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Friday, March 6, 2015

February Aces; Ohio State's Record Home Winning Streak Snapped by Oklahoma; Alabama Women Down Georgia; Crawford, Hibi Earn Qualifying WCs AT BNP Paribas Open

My monthly review of the top performances is available today at the Tennis Recruiting Network.  The Team Indoor championships are the collegiate highlight of the month, but I think you might find a few new faces mixed in the with well-known juniors and college players.

The big news tonight is the end of the Ohio State men's home winning streak, which was snapped by No. 1 Oklahoma 4-3.

The last team to beat Ohio State at home was also a top-ranked team, Illinois, who posted a 5-2 win over the Buckeyes in Columbus on April 5, 2003.  Since that loss, Ohio State has 200 straight wins in Columbus, breaking the NCAA record for consecutive home wins in any sport that was previously held by the Stanford women, who had a streak of 184 snapped in May of 2011.

After eighth-ranked Ohio State took the doubles point, Oklahoma responded with four first sets in singles, but Ohio State took a 2-0 lead with A 6-2, 6-2 win by Ralf Steinbach over Spencer Papa at No. 4.  Team Indoor Most Outstanding Player Alex Ghilea put Oklahoma on the board with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Hunter Callahan at No. 5 and the Sooners tied it with Axel Alvarez's 6-2, 7-5 victory over Chris Diaz at No. 2.  The other three matches all went to a third set.  Mikael Torpegaard put the Buckeyes back on top with a 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 win over Andrew Harris at No. 1, but Dane Webb took a big lead in the third set and finished off Herko Pollanen 3-6, 7-6, 6-1 at No. 3.

Three hours into the match, which was played with no-ad scoring, Oklahoma's Florin Bragusi and Kevin Metka had just begun their third set at No. 6, with Bragusi winning the first set in a tiebreaker and Metka taking the second set, also in a tiebreaker.

Metka received treatment for cramping at the changeovers throughout most of the final set, which featured no breaks of serve.  Metka had his chances with the Sooner sophomore serving at 4-5 in the final set, going up 15-40.  But Bragusi saved all three match points that would have kept the streak alive, and a tiebreaker would ultimately decide it.

Metka is known for his relentless serve and volley attack and his positive attitude, but Bragusi was also aggressive in approaching the net and in staying composed while over 700 fans were cheering against him.

After two minibreaks to open the tiebreaker, each held serve until Bragusi went up 6-5.  Metka, who had served well in tight spots throughout the match, didn't get his first serve in and Bragusi converted, after over four hours of tennis.

In a women's Top 10 match, No. 9 Alabama defeated No. 6 Georgia 5-2 in Tuscaloosa. For a complete recap of that match, see the Alabama website.

The BNP Paribas Open Challenge semifinals were played today, with the both women's finalists earning a place in the qualifying draw. No. 7 seed Samantha Crawford defeated No. 10 seed Lauren Embree 7-6, 6-2 and Japan's Mayo Hibi(9) defeated 16-year-old Canadian Katherine Sebov 6-0, 6-2.

In the men's draw, No. 4 seed Mischa Zverev of Germany defeated top seed Chase Buchanan 7-5, 6-3 in the semifinals, and No. 2 seed Artem Smirnov of Ukraine topped No. 3 seed Mico Santiago 6-4, 6-3.  Zverev and Smirnov are scheduled to play the final, for a qualifying wild card, on Saturday.

Complete draws can be found here.