Top Seed Alvarez Saves Match Points; Brady Downs No. 3 Seed Austin In NCAA Division I Singles Opening Round Action
©Colette Lewis 2015--
The emotional and physical challenges of playing a first round singles match the day after playing in the team championships are undeniable, particularly for members of the losing team. But Oklahoma's Axel Alvarez and UCLA's Jennifer Brady navigated those obstacles Wednesday, posting impressive wins in hot and humid conditions at the Hurd Tennis Center on the campus of Baylor University.
Alvarez, whose match with Ryan Shane went unfinished Tuesday afternoon in Oklahoma's 4-1 loss to Virginia, didn't look particularly interested in being back out on the court against 18th-ranked Nik Scholtz of Ole Miss, a three-time All-American. Alvarez was overruled on line calls three times in the first set, an extremely rare occurrence, but although clearly exasperated with the chair umpire, he dug in.
Trailing 6-3, 4-1, the junior from Spain held twice, forcing Scholtz to serve for it. Scholtz, a senior from South Africa, used his big serve to get to match point, but couldn't summon one when he needed it most. He hit a forehand wide on his first match point, and a backhand long on the second, both times failing to get a first serve in. Two more second serves and two more errors and the match was back on serve, with Alvarez clearly rejuvenated.
Alvarez dominated the tiebreaker, then took a 3-0 lead in the third set, with Scholtz making frequent unforced errors, possibly due to fatigue. Alvarez, in contrast, eliminated mistakes from his game, although he was again agitated when he was overruled a fourth time with Scholtz serving a 1-3, 30-all. That overrule immediately gave Scholtz the game, but didn't stop Alvarez's momentum, and although the tournament referee had to stay courtside watching the match, with a default being required after the next overrule, Alvarez rolled through the next three games. When he had secured match point, Alvarez let loose with a long vamos, then a short one, with his commitment to winning the match no longer in doubt.
"It was really hard," Alvarez admitted. "I didn't really have the energy or the motivation to play after yesterday's loss in the final. You don't get one day off, you have to play right away. I was really tired from all four of the matches we played."
Although still puzzled by his disagreements with the umpire, Alvarez said it may have lit the fire that was missing when he started the match.
"That definitely helped a little bit, yeah," Alvarez said. "I've never been overruled more than two times in a match in my three years here in college. I know the umpire sees what he sees, and I know one of the balls could have been in, but the rest were clearly out. But I can't get mad at him, that's what he sees, and I have to accept it, but I got a little lucky with that. It helped me pick up the energy."
Alvarez will next play Tony Lupieri of Baylor, one of three Bears who reached the second round.
Number 2 seed Julian Lenz of Baylor was, like Alvarez, in serious trouble in the first round, with Duke's Jason Tahir serving for the match at 6-2, 5-4. Tahir saved a break point, but got no closer than deuce, with Lenz eventually taking a 2-6, 7-6(3), 6-2 victory, his first in three years of competition at the NCAAs.
Men's third seed Mackenzie McDonald of UCLA did not survive, beaten by Texas's Lloyd Glasspool, ranked No. 42.
"I played tactically very well, rather than how I hit the ball," said the senior from England. "He's a very good player. If it's in his strike zone he hits it very well, better than anyone here, so I was trying to keep it high or low or anywhere, and it seemed to work today. I think he could have played better, yeah, but I think I made him play that way. The courts here are slow and pretty bouncy which did help me get it high up to him."
Oklahoma's Andrew Harris, the No. 4 seed, withdrew, with Guillermo Nunez of TCU replacing him in the draw.
Two other seeds, both 9-16s, lost Wednesday, with North Carolina's Brayden Schnur retiring to Felipe Soares of Texas Tech at 3-2 in the first set, and Gonzales Austin of Vanderbilt falling to Virginia's Thai Kwiatkowski 6-4, 6-0.
In the women's first round, top seed Robin Anderson of UCLA and No. 2 seed Carol Zhao of Stanford had no difficulty, nor did defending champion Danielle Collins of Virginia. Collins, a 9-16 seed, defeated Taylor Davidson of Stanford 6-3, 6-3.
Third seed Brooke Austin of Florida, named ITA Rookie of the Year yesterday, was drawn against UCLA's Brady, who is 209 in the WTA rankings.
Austin got off to a great start, leading 4-0, but Brady took the match 7-6(3), 6-4.
"She came out pretty well in both the first and second sets," said Brady, a sophomore who has said she will turn pro after this event. "In the first, I went down 4-0 in a couple of minutes. I started pretty slow energy-wise, but I think once I started getting used to her ball, and the balls started getting a little deader, I started getting into the match, getting my rhythm, moving a lot more and feeling the ball better."
Brady was in a similar situation last year in singles, after UCLA won the title 4-3 over North Carolina.
"I remember after we won it, I came out flat-footed and lost my first set 6-0 in about five or ten minutes," said Brady, who recovered for a three-set win over Baylor's Jordaan Sanford. "I came out today pretty much the same way, but didn't lose the first, just went down 4-0. But in the back of my mind, I knew it was going to hard to start quick, because she had a few days where she wasn't playing, got back into practicing and had more motivation. But once I got going, got my feet moving, that helped me a lot."
Brady, although hardly considering herself an underdog, was aware of Austin's success this year.
"I know she got rookie player of the year and SEC player of the year," Brady said. "She's had a great freshman year, congrats to her. I knew she was going to come out playing well, because clearly she's been doing well results-wise. So I knew I had to stay focused throughout the match, and hopefully things would go my way."
Other women's seed to fall in the first round were Georgia's Lauren Herring, seeded No. 5, who went out to Miami's Sinead Lohan 6-1, 6-4, and No. 9 seeds Hayley Carter of North Carolina, who lost to Baylor's Ema Burgic 6-3, 6-4, and Pepperdine's Lorraine Guillermo, who was beaten 6-2, 6-3 by Belinda Woolcock of Florida, who received entry as an alternate when Murray State's Erin Patton withdrew.
The first round of doubles begins on Thursday, primarily after the second round of singles.
Complete results and draws can be found at Tournament Central.