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Sunday, May 27, 2018

Hartono Saves Match Points En Route to Women's D-I Singles Final vs Lahey; Gojo Saves Match Points to Advance to Men's Final vs Teammate Chrysochos; Molinero and Andreev Win ITF Grade A Titles in Milan; Three Americans Advance on Roland Garros Opening Day

The finals are set for Monday at the NCAA Division I Individual Championships, after a long and exciting semifinal day at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex in Winston Salem North Carolina.

Three of the singles semifinals went three sets, with Arianne Hartono of Ole Miss and Borna Gojo of Wake Forest saving match points in their victories.

While Pepperdine's Ashley Lahey, a 9-16 seed, was closing out her 6-3, 6-3 victory over No. 8 seed Fernanda Contreras, her teammate, Mayar Sherif Ahmed had worked her way to match points against No. 6 seed Hartono. After taking the first set 6-2 and breaking Hartono for a 5-4 lead in the second set, Sherif Ahmed went up 40-15, giving herself three match points. Hartono saved the first with a winner, and Sherif Ahmed netted a forehand volley on the second. On the deciding point, Hartono hit a forehand return winner, getting it to 5-all, but she lost her serve in the next game to give Sherif Ahmed another chance to serve it out. She couldn't take that second chance either, with Hartono breaking at love. At 5-5 in the tiebreaker, Sherif Ahmed netted a slice to give Hartono her first set point, and she converted it when Sherif Ahmed's return went wide.

Sherif Ahmed was up 3-0 in the third set, but Hartono recovered by winning three of four deciding points to make it 5-all.  Sherif Ahmed saved a couple of break points to take a 6-5 lead, and Hartono held for the deciding tiebreaker.  Sherif Ahmed had won her semifinal match with Astra Sharma of Vanderbilt in a third set tiebreaker, but her luck didn't hold. With Hartono leading 4-2 and serving, she ran down every aggressive shot and got several overheads back, and the effort paid off, with Sherif Ahmed eventually missing a putaway. Hartono got a fortunate netcord to go up 6-2 and earned her place in the final on the next point, clocking a backhand winner down the line for an emphatic end to the nearly three hour match.

Hartono, a 22-year-old senior from the Netherlands, is the first woman from Ole Miss to reach an NCAA final and Lahey, an 18-year-old sophomore from Southern California, is the first Pepperdine woman to make an NCAA final, so one of the schools will have their first NCAA women's champion Monday.

Six days after earning its first NCAA team title, Wake Forest is certain to claim its first NCAA singles champion on Monday with Petros Chrysochos and Borna Gojo facing off for the title.  No. 4 seed Chrysochos defeated top seed Martin Redlicki of UCLA 6-1, 4-6, 6-4, while No. 7 seed Gojo beat No. 3 seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State 2-6, 7-5, 6-2.

Serving at 4-5 in the second set, Gojo, a sophomore from Croatia, fell behind 30-40 but hit two consecutive aces to hold. He then broke Borges and held to force a third set. Borges was broken on a deciding point serving at 2-3, and Gojo, showing no sign of the fatigue that he (and Chrysochos) must be feeling after playing nine singles matches in 10 days, held, broke, and held to set up the first all-teammate singles final since Stanford's Bob Bryan defeated Paul Goldstein in 1998.

Chrysochos and Gojo are only the fourth pair of teammates to meet for the singles title since 1977 (records before that show only the winner, not the finalist). The other two instances were in the 1980s: in 1985, Georgia's Mikael Pernfors defeated George Bezecny; in 1981, Stanford's Tim Mayotte defeated Jim Gurfein.

With no American in the NCAA men's final for the first time since 2008, the US Open wild card traditionally given to an American winner is not in play.

The doubles finals are set for Monday, with both championship teams guaranteed to be unseeded.

The women's doubles final will feature Jessica Golovin and Eden Richardson of LSU against Oklahoma State's Vladica Babic and Sofia Blanco. Golovin and Richardson defeated North Carolina's Sara Daavettila and Alle Sanford 3-6, 6-4, 10-6, while Babic and Blanco eliminated the only seeded team still in action in either draw, No. 5-8 seeds Ellyse Hamlin and Kaitlyn McCarthy of Duke, 6-1, 7-5.

Although Redlicki's hopes for a singles title were dashed today, the Bruin senior will play for his second NCAA doubles title Monday, with Evan Zhu.  Redlicki, who won the 2016 title with Mackenzie McDonald, and Zhu defeated Memphis's Ryan Peniston and Andrew Watson 6-3, 7-6(6) tonight and will face Ohio State's Martin Joyce and Mikael Torpegaard in the final.  Joyce and Torpegaard prevented another all-teammate final by beating UCLA's Austin Rapp and Keegan Smith 6-7(5), 7-6(2), 10-8.

The NCAA will be broadcasting the finals Monday at noon through a link at ncaa.com.

The ITF Trofeo Bonfiglio in Milan wrapped up today with Adrian Andreev of Bulgaria and Eleonora Molinero of Luxembourg capturing their first Grade A titles.  The 17-year-old Andreev, the No. 16 seed, downed top seed Sebastian Baez of Argentina 6-3, 6-3 and No. 13 seed Molinero, also 17, defeated No. 9 seed Yuki Naito of Japan 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.

For more on the girls final, see Tommy Hemp's coverage at Tennis Underworld.

Naito did capture a title today, in doubles, with partner Naho Sato, also of Japan. The No. 2 seeds beat unseeded Caty McNally and Switzerland's Leonie Kung 7-6(5), 6-4 in today's final.

Today marked the start of 2018's second major, with Jared Donaldson, Sloane Stephens and Jennifer Brady collecting first round victories at Roland Garros. Venus Williams[9], Madison Brengle, Denis Kudla and Taylor Fritz lost their opening matches. Christina McHale had dropped her second set when play was called because of darkness. Defending champion Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia was beaten by Kateryna Kozlova of Ukraine 7-5, 6-3.

Fourteen Americans are on the schedule for Monday: Danielle Collins, CoCo Vandeweghe[15], Madison Keys[13] v Sachia Vickery, John Isner[9] v Noah Rubin, Frances Tiafoe v Sam Querrey[12], Sonya Kenin, Varvara Lepchenko, Caroline Dolehide, Grace Min, Bernarda Pera and Vania King.