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Monday, May 28, 2018

Hartono of Ole Miss, Chrysochos of Wake Forest Claim NCAA D-I Singles Titles; LSU, UCLA Teams Win Doubles Crowns; Five More Americans Advance to Second Round at Roland Garros

Even before the finals of the NCAA Division I singles finals today at Wake Forest, we knew history would be made; the question was not if, but who. Unfortunately, rainy weather in Winston Salem North Carolina forced all four finals inside prior to the start of play, bookending the tournament's 12 days, which began with team matches also played indoors.

In the women's final, it was Arianne Hartono of Ole Miss who came away with the first NCAA title in her program's history, with the 22-year-old senior from the Netherlands defeating Ashley Lahey, Pepperdine's first NCAA singles finalist, 6-4, 6-2.

Hartono, the No. 6 seed, trailed 4-2 in the first set, but won four straight games from Lahey, a 9-16 seed, to take control. At 4-4, Hartono won a deciding point on her serve, with a forehand on the baseline that handcuffed Lahey and she broke in the next game.

Hartono won every deciding point (five by my count), taking a 3-1 lead in the second set with forehand winner to break Lahey at deuce. She saved two break points at 3-1, 30-40, with her first serve coming up big, then broke Lahey to go up 5-1.  In her first opportunity to serve it out, Hartono was broken at love, but she didn't need another. Her forehand, a reliable point generator all match, continued to pressure Lahey and she earned her first championship point with a forehand winner to make it 30-40. She missed a forehand long on the first match point, but a great forehand return of a second serve finished it.

Hartono, who saved three match points in her 2-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(2) semifinal win over Pepperdine's Mayar Sherif Ahmed, is the first international NCAA champion since Cal's Jana Jurikova won the title in 2011.

The men's final between Wake Forest teammates Petros Chrysochos and Borna Gojo was also short on drama, with Chrysochos taking a 6-3, 6-3 decision.  Chrysochos, the No. 4 seed, broke Gojo, the No. 7 seed, in the first and last game of the opening set. Gojo got his first break of serve to take a 2-1 lead in the second set, but wasn't able to consolidate, and Chrysochos broke and held to take a 5-2 lead. Down match point in the deuce point serving at 2-5, Gojo slammed an ace to take the game, but unlike in his semifinal win against Mississippi State's Nuno Borges, where he hit two aces on two consecutive match points, today's ace didn't prove pivotal. Serving for the title Chrysochos fell behind 15-30, but he recovered to take the next three points, with Gojo sending a backhand return off a second serve long to give Chrysochos his 30th consecutive win.

Chrysochos, a junior from Cyprus, is the first NCAA men's champion at Wake Forest. Gojo, a sophomore from Croatia, is the third finalist in program history, joining Noah Rubin.

For the first time since 2006, when Cal's Suzi Babos and UCLA's Benjamin Kohlloffel won titles, both champions are international players. The US Open wild cards traditionally given to American players are not extended to international winners.

For more on Hartono's win, see this article from the Ole Miss website. For more on Chrysochos's title, see this article from the Wake Forest website.

Eden Richardson and Jessica Golovin, LSU; Martin Redlicki and Evan Zhu, UCLA
Another program first was recorded by the team of Jessica Golovin and Eden Richardson who claimed LSU's first NCAA women's title with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Vladica Babic and Sofia Blanco of Oklahoma State.  Golovin, a junior, and Richardson, a freshman, won two match tiebreakers as they advanced to the final, but were never in trouble in the final, building leads of 4-1 in both sets and keeping their advantage throughout.  For more on LSU's title, see this article from their website.

The one school adding to its substantial legacy Monday was UCLA, with the doubles team of Martin Redlicki and Evan Zhu winning the day's most exciting match.  Redlicki and Zhu saved a match point in the final set match tiebreaker to defeat Ohio State's Martin Joyce and Mikael Torpegaard 6-7(8), 7-6(4), 11-9.

With a score like that, margins were obviously small and the drama started in the first set tiebreaker, with UCLA trailing 5-0 before winning the next five points. After a Zhu let cord winner saved a set point against UCLA, Ohio State faced a set point, but Torpegaard hit a huge serve to save. Ohio State lost the next point, giving Redlicki a set point on his serve, but he failed to get a first serve in in the next two points and Joyce held his to take the set.

UCLA got the first break of the match and took a 4-2 lead, but Zhu dropped his serve to make it 4-4 and another tiebreaker would determine whether a third would be necessary.

UCLA managed to keep its lead in that tiebreaker, with Zhu and Redlicki earning a third match tiebreaker in the five matches they contested this week. Joyce and Torpegaard, whose only match tiebreaker came in the semifinals against UCLA's Austin Rapp and Keegan Smith, fell behind 4-2 and 7-5. After the second change of ends, Zhu held for 8-5, but the Buckeyes won four straight points, with Zhu letting a return go that landed in to give Ohio State a match point. Zhu redeemed himself on the next point with a forehand winner that landed on the sideline. Torpegaard, who was in control at the net but couldn't get the ball by Zhu, argued the call, but it stood, and another UCLA winner later and good first serve by Zhu and the Bruins had the title, the 13th for the program.

Redlicki, a senior, now has two NCAA doubles title, having won his first in 2016 with Mackenzie McDonald. Zhu, a sophomore, will now hope he gets the chance that Redlicki was given to play as a wild card in the US Open.

For more on the UCLA title, see this article from their website.

The second day of first round play at Roland Garros was again cut short, this time by rain and darkness, but five Americans, four women and one man, did get through the second round.  Madison Keys[13] defeated Sachia Vickery 6-3, 6-3, CoCo Vandeweghe defeated Laura Siegemund of Germany 6-4, 6-4, Bernada Pera downed Elena Vesnina of Russia 6-3, 6-1 and qualifier Caroline Dolehide defeated Viktorija Golubic of Switzerland 6-4, 6-4.  It's the first slam main draw win for the 19-year-old Dolehide. Sam Querrey[12], the only US man to win Monday, defeated Frances Tiafoe 6-1, 6-2, 7-6(6).

Grace Min, Danielle Collins, Vania King, Sonya Kenin and Christina McHale lost their first round matches.

John Isner[9] was leading Noah Rubin two sets to none when play was suspended, and Varvara Lepchenko was down 3-0 in the third to Elise Mertens of Belgium.

In addition to the rescheduled matches, the remaining Americans will play on Tuesday: Serena Williams, Alison Riske, Steve Johnson, Jack Sock[14], Taylor Townsend, Ryan Harrison, Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Tennys Sandgren.

Tuesday's schedule is available here.

At the rain-plagued $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit event in Osprey Florida, top seed Deniz Khazaniuk of Israel defeated No. 7 seed Sophie
Chang 6-4, 4-6, 10-6 in the final. If the doubles tournament was completed, I don't see any evidence of it on the ITF Pro Circuit website.