Cal Wins Thriller to Join UNC in the ITA Women's Team Indoor Final; Bellis and Neel Win Midland Doubles Title; Mmoh Qualifies for ATP Memphis Open
©Jonathan Kelley for Zootennis--
The University of California Golden Bears will try to dethrone defending champion University of North Carolina on Monday at the 2016 Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Women's Team Indoor Championships in Madison, Wisconsin. #4 seed California ended the Cinderella run of #8 seed Ohio State University with a heart-stopping 4-3 victory, while #3 seed North Carolina beat the #2 seed University of Georgia 4-2 in a rematch of last year's final.
This is only the second ITA Team Indoor final for Cal, which lost to Stanford 8-0 in 2000, but the Bears did reach the ITA Indoors semifinals the last two years. UNC is into their 4th final in 7 years, and is looking for their third title in the last four years.
"It was just a great match," said Cal coach Amanda Augustus. "Credit to Ohio State, they battled us until the very last point of every match, singles and doubles. Our team, that's something we like to be known for -- competing really hard -- and I was just really, really proud of the effort of our team today and how hard they competed to find their way out of some really tough matches on a lot of courts."
From Ohio State's perspective, the semifinal loss to Cal was almost a mirror image of their upset quarterfinal win against #1 Vanderbilt. Against Vandy, OSU lost the doubles point when #6 Anna Sanford and Miho Kowase couldn't convert match points at #1. But they used that loss to motivate them in the singles, where they won 4 of 6 matches including big wins by Olivia Sneed at #6 and the epic clinch by Kowase at #4.
Against Cal, OSU won the doubles point. Sanford/Kowase broke the #3-ranked team of Maegan Manasse and Denise Starr when the latter was serving for the match, and then took a tight tiebreaker 7-5. But this time, Cal used its doubles loss as motivation in singles, and won 4 of 6 matches, with Starr beating Kowase at #4 and Karla Popovic clinching against Sneed at #6.
Cal got its first point at #2 singles, with #10-ranked Klara Fabikova routing Gabriella De Santis 6-2 6-1. But as she did all tournament #2 Francesca Di Lorenzo got a win for OSU, this one by a score of 6-2 7-6(2) over #5 Manasse at line 1 to put OSU up 2-1. Di Lorenzo, who was the Individual Indoor champion in November, finished the ITA Team Indoor 6-0 in singles and doubles.
The second set of the Di Lorenzo/Manasse match featured a bit of everything. Manasse was down 2 match points at 3*-5 30-40 but managed to hold for 4-5*. Serving for the match, Di Lorenzo double faulted at 30-30 to give Manasse two break points. She saved the first, and on deciding point/match point, Di Lorenzo called a ball long and strutted toward the net in victory. However, the call was overturned by the chair umpire, and the score was tied at 5-5.
Di Lorenzo broke right back and on the first point of her 6*-5 game, played two terrific volleys that left Manasse scrambling. As the second volley was about to bounce twice, Di Lorenzo let out a big "COME ON!" and walked back toward her baseline. However, a scrambling Manasse got her racquet on the ball, and even though she didn't have much of a play on it, the chair umpire determined that because she got to it, Di Lorenzo's yell amounted to a hindrance. Manasse then turned on her power and broke Di Lorenzo at 15 to set up the tiebreaker, which the Buckeye won handily.Woah Di Lorenzo called a Manasse ball long on deciding/match point but was overruled. Manasse back on serve 5-5 pic.twitter.com/ZeeUSqaePO— Jonathan Kelley (@jokelley_tennis) February 7, 2016
Cal freshman Olivia Hauger (ranked #81) got a huge 6-4 6-4 win over Ferny Angeles Paz at line 5 to even the match at 2-2, with all three remaining matches in third sets.
At line 3, OSU's Anna Sanford found herself down a set and twice down a break in the second set against Lynn Chi. But she clawed back to win the second 6-4. In the third set, Sanford again went down a break at 1*-3 but found a way to win the last five games of the match to win 4-6 6-4 6-3. Remarkably, all five games were won in deciding points. Not only that, but Chi had 40-30 at 3*-2, and 40-15 (3 game or break points) at 3-3*, 3*-4, and 3-5*.
Given that result, the Buckeyes surely thought destiny was on their side. But destiny had other ideas.
Following the result on 3, both of the last two matches became super intense affairs. At 4, Starr was down an early break in the 3rd set at 1-2* but Kowase started her next service game with 2 double faults and was quickly broken to even the match at 2-2 and Starr then consolidated for 3-2. In the next game, a Kowase error at 30-40 gave Starr the break and a 4-2 lead.
Simultaneously, Sneed at 6 won two consecutive deciding points to narrow her deficit from 0-4* to 2-4* meaning both matches had identical scores. In the next game, Sneed got to yet another deciding point/break point -- this one to get back on serve. But she hit a backhand wide and Popovic was up 5-2*. Seconds later, on yet another deciding point/break point to get back on serve, Sneed's teammate Kowase hit a backhand wide and Starr was up 5-2*.
Serving to stay in the match, Kowase went up 30-0 but Starr won the next three points to get to match point. Kowase saved the first but lost yet another deciding point and with it, the match 1-6 6-4 6-3. All the focus shifted to 6, where Sneed held from 30-40, saving two match points and putting the pressure on Popovic.
Popovic served well in the game, going up 40-15 -- three more match points. On the first, she double faulted, but on the second she worked the point long enough until Sneed hit a forehand into the net, and Popovic's teammates stormed the court.
"It was amazing," Popovic said. "Especially being the first time I clinched as the last match on, it was definitely incredible."Popovic d. Sneed 6-2 1-6 6-3. The University of California Golden Bears join UNC in the #ITAIndoors final pic.twitter.com/w4Ex39n8Oa— Jonathan Kelley (@jokelley_tennis) February 7, 2016
When asked what she said to her team, OSU coach Melissa Shaub said, "I just told them to keep their heads up. This loss today takes nothing away from the tournament we had. Going into the season, our goal was to get here, and we did that and had a good win yesterday and a good run. I just think obviously it's heartbreaking today but they need to be proud of what they've done so far this season and look ahead to the rest of the year."
UNC Heels the Dawgs
The match between UNC and Georgia was a bit more anticlimactic, but was still highly competitive throughout.
UNC took the doubles point 2-1, coming back from a 0-6 loss at line 2 by #16 Jessie Aney and Kate Vialle to unranked Silvia Garcia and Caroline Brinson. (The scoreline at 2 was even more surprising given that Aney and Vialle had won their first two matches by identical 6-0 scores.) But #2-ranked Hayley Carter and Whitney Kay beat #14 Ellen Perez/Mariana Gould 6-4, coming back from down 2*-4 30-40 and benefitting from a missed Georgia overhead on the deciding point. ("We got a little lucky," said UNC head coach Brian Kalbas.) Ashley Dai and Chloe Ouellet-Pizer finished things off against Laura Patterson/Kennedy Shaffer 6-3 at line 3.
The Tar Heels lost two major parts of their ITA Indoors title team in Jamie Loeb and Caroline Price, but they gained two players who have proved essential in their run to this year's final. Aney, playing #3 singles, got UNC's second point by beating #82 Garcia 6-0 6-4, while at #6, #112 Ouellet-Pizer got a 6-1 2-6 6-4 win over Patterson. The two freshmen are undefeated in singles play this week.
Georgia got big wins at #4 and #5 singles with #109 Shaffer beating #68 Vialle 6-1 6-2 and Gould beating Marika Akkerman 7-6(3) 6-2, saving a set point at 6-6 deuce in the first set. But that was it for the Bulldogs. #88 Whitney Kay beat #22 Caroline Brinson 1-6 6-1 6-3 at line 2, winning 6 of 7 deciding points in the last 2 sets to put UNC within a point, and Ouellet-Pizer clinched things shortly thereafter.
After her breadstick first set, Ouellet-Pizer said, "I kind of lost my game and lost the feel of it. I was really tight and my arms were like shaking." In the third set, she went down 1*4 0-40 when she turned things around. "I don't even know what changed. I thought I was going to lose. But I hit a winner at 0-40, and then we had a really long point and when I got it to 30-40, I thought, 'If I can win this game, I can totally win the match.'" And she did. In the next game she broke Patterson at 30 to get back on serve, and during the ensuing changeover, volunteer assistant coach Shinann Featherstone told her, "You can win every point if you play your game, and I was like, 'Yeah, you're right, I can.'" And she nearly did, losing only one more point for the rest of the match.
As for getting her second clinch in as many days, Ouellet-Pizer laughed and said, "I don't know how that happens two days in a row."
The #1 singles match between #6 Carter (UNC) and #12 Perez (UGA) was abandoned..@UNC_wtennis d. UGA 4-1 to reach #ITAIndoors final. Chloe Ouellet-Pizer comes back from 1-4 in 3rd to win 61 26 64 pic.twitter.com/S7TbtSKl84— Jonathan Kelley (@jokelley_tennis) February 7, 2016
"It's really exciting," said Brian Kalbas, now in his 13th year as UNC head coach. "This team is fun to coach, fun to be around. They work hard, probably the hardest working team I've had and it's nice to see that hard work pay off."
The final will take place on Monday at 11:00 a.m. CST. It will be the first match in several years between the two teams, and will feature five Top 10 singles players and doubles teams. Follow me on Twitter at @jokelley_tennis for live updates during the match.
February 7, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Semifinals, Madison, Wisc.
No. 4 seed California 4, No. 8 seed Ohio State 3
1. #2 Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. #5 Maegan Manasse (CAL) 6-2, 7-6 (7-2)
2. #10 Klara Fabikova (CAL) def. Gabriella De Santis (OSU) 6-2, 6-1
3. Anna Sanford (OSU) def. Lynn Chi (CAL) 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
4. Denise Starr (CAL) def. Miho Kowase (OSU) 1-6, 6-4, 6-2
5. #81 Olivia Hauger (CAL) def. Femy Angeles Paz (OSU) 6-4, 6-4
6. Karla Popovic (CAL) def. Olivia Sneed (OSU) 6-2, 1-6, 6-3
1. #6 Anna Sanford/Miho Kowase (OSU) def. #3 Maegan Manasse/Denise Starr (CAL) 7-6 (7-5)
2. Gabriella De Santis/Femy Angeles Paz (OSU) vs. #43 Klara Fabikova/Olivia Hauger (CAL) 5-5, unfinished
3. Olivia Sneed/Francesca Di Lorenzo (OSU) def. Lynn Chi/Maria Smith (CAL) 6-4
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (2,1,5,3,4,6)
February 7, 2016
ITA Women’s National Team Indoor Semifinals, Madison, Wisc.
No. 3 seed North Carolina 4, No. 2 seed Georgia 2
1. #6 Hayley Carter (NC) vs. #12 Ellen Perez (UGA) 7-5, 4-6, 1-2, unfinished
2. #88 Whitney Kay (NC) def. #22 Caroline Brinson (UGA) 1-6, 6-1, 6-3
3. Jessie Aney (NC) def. #82 Silvia Garcia (UGA) 6-0, 6-4
4. #109 Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) def. #68 Kate Vialle (NC) 6-1, 6-2
5. Mariana Gould (UGA) def. Marika Akkerman (NC) 7-6 (7-3), 6-2
6. #112 Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Laura Patterson (UGA) 6-1, 2-6, 6-4
1. #2 Hayley Carter/Whitney Kay (NC) def. #14 Ellen Perez/Mariana Gould (UGA) 6-4
2. Silvia Garcia/Caroline Brinson (UGA) def. #16 Jessie Aney/Kate Vialle (NC) 6-0
3. Ashley Dai/Chloe Ouellet-Pizer (NC) def. Laura Patterson/Kennedy Shaffer (UGA) 6-3
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (4,3,2,5,6)
At the $100,000 Dow Corning Tennis Classic in Midland, Great Britain's Naomi Broady defeated wild card Robin Anderson 6-7(6), 6-0, 6-2 to win the title and move into the WTA Top 100 for the first time.
The first set, over an hour long, was as close as the score would suggest, and the second was not quite as lopsided as it would appear, but there's no doubt Broady played outstanding tennis in the final two sets. Her backhand was erratic in the first set, but once she got that shot under control, there was precious little Anderson could do. Broady's serve was the weapon of the week and she had 15 aces in today's final. And even when she wasn't hitting aces, her serve was producing defensive returns that gave her a chance to put away her big forehand. Anderson stayed calm, but wasn't getting the depth she needed to be aggressive and spent too much time defending in the final two sets.
Broady had to settle for one title Sunday, with the wild card team of Ingrid Neel and CiCi Bellis winning the doubles title over No. 2 seeds Broady and Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-4. Neel, 17, and Bellis 16, beat the No. 1, No. 3 and No. 2 seeds in succession to win the title. Neel is the reigning USTA National 18s doubles champion (with Tornado Alicia Black), and already has a title at a $25,000 Pro Circuit tournament to her credit this year, along with two last year at the $10,000 level. Bellis has one doubles title on the pro circuit, at the $10,000 level, but there wasn't anything to indicate they would handle the caliber of competition they would face at this level. They lost only one set, to No. 3 seeds Nicole Gibbs and Taylor Townsend in the semifinals.
At the ATP Memphis Open qualifying, Michael Mmoh earned his first ATP main draw berth with a 6-4, 5-7, 7-6(6) win over Bjorn Fratangelo. Fratangelo served for the match at 6-5 in the third set of the nearly three-hour match, but Mmoh, who had had two match points with Fratangelo serving at 4-5 in the third, broke, then went up 6-3 in the tiebreaker. Fratangelo saved all three of those match points, but Mmoh finally converted on his sixth. The 18-year-old joins wild cards Taylor Fritz, Frances Tiafoe and Tommy Paul in the draw, with Mmoh drawing Fritz has his first round opponent. Jared Donaldson made it five US teenagers in the main draw when he defeated Ireland's James McGee 6-0, 7-6(0) in the day's last match.
Tiafoe will play Ryan Harrison in a Monday night match; Paul has drawn Benjamin Becker of Germany. Donaldson plays fellow qualifier Yoshihito Nishioka of Japan on Monday.