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Sunday, May 19, 2019

Texas Claims First Men's Team Title, Stanford Earns 20th Women's Championship; Mandlik, Stewart Capture $15K Titles; Four Americans Qualify at Milan Grade A; Men's Qualifying Begins at French Open

The word adversity pops up frequently in sports, and overcoming it has led to many inspirational stories. Finding a tougher position that the one the University of Texas men's program was put in this season is hard to imagine. At the end of March, in the midst of one of their best seasons, long-time head coach Michael Center was arrested in conjunction with the Varsity Blues college admission scandal that was headline news for weeks. Center was fired, and last month pleaded guilty; he has not yet been sentenced. Bruce Berque, the associate head coach, was given the title of interim head coach, and the team did not miss a beat, with their season culminating in the program's first NCAA team title today via a 4-1 victory over defending champion Wake Forest.

Maybe recovering from the shock of losing their coach mid-season gave the second-seeded Longhorns the confidence they could overcome a less dramatic but still discouraging predicament in the final: the loss of the doubles point.

Texas won at line 3 easily, with Chih Chi Huang and Yuya Ito defeating Siddhant Banthia and Julian Zlobinsky 6-2, but Wake won at line 2, with Bar Botzer and Petros Chrysochos beating Colin Markes and Leonardo Telles 6-3. Wake, who had not won a doubles point in their previous four matches, closed out this one with Alan Gadjiev and Borna Gojo beating Harrison Scott and Christian Sigsgaard 6-4.

Wake looked to be firmly in control with that point, with their top 3 considered nearly unbeatable, and at the start of singles, Wake Forest had early breaks on four courts. But Texas quickly set about hijacking that narrative, and ended with four first sets in singles, meaning it was Wake who would need a comeback.  The Demon Deacons were in a similar situation against North Carolina in the semifinals Saturday, although they were trailing 1-0, and it was Gojo who delivered the three-set win they needed at line 1 to earn a 4-3 victory.  But against Texas, Gojo looked tired and just plain off his game, and Sigsgaard seized his opportunity, drawing Texas even with a 6-3, 6-4 victory.

Wake looked to be in good position for its second point with Rrezart Cungu up 6-2, 4-1 over Scott at line 4, but Cungu couldn't hold the lead and that match went to a third set. Ito had already pushed 2018 NCAA champion Chrysochos to a third set at line 2, so the momentum had definitely shifted to the Longhorns, and when Rodrigo Banzer finally put away a stubborn Banthia 7-5, 6-4, Texas had a 2-1 lead. At line 5, Wake's Melios Efstathiou had a 4-2 lead in the second set, but he won just one of the next five games and Markes closed it out 6-4, 7-5 to make it 3-1 Texas.

Telles led Botzer 6-3, 5-3, but Botzer got it to a tiebreaker, and after saving two match (and championships points) in the tiebreaker, Botzer earned a third set. Scott was up 3-0 however in his third set with Cungu and Ito had managed to hold on to his early third set break over Chrysochos, so the title was beginning to look inevitable for the Longhorns. Serving for the championship at 5-4 in the third, Ito went up 40-15, but missed a forehand volley winner that would have ended it. But at 40-30 Chrysochos hit a forehand wide and the celebration for those in Burnt Orange began.

Three hours after the Texas men won their first NCAA team title, the Stanford women claimed their 20th, beating top seed Georgia 4-0.  Georgia had administered the only loss that Stanford suffered all season, in the semifinals of the ITA National Team Indoor Championships back in February, so the third-seeded Cardinal knew what they were up against.

The doubles point came down to line 2, after Georgia's Lourdes Carle and Katarina Jokic defeated Kimberly Yee and Caroline Lampl 6-1 at line 1 and Stanford's Janice Shin and Melissa Lord defeated Marta Gonzalez and Meg Kowalski 6-3 at line 3. In what would become a theme of the evening, Stanford did eventually finish the job, with Michaela Gordon and Emily Arbuthnott defeating Elena Christofi and Vivian Wolff 7-5, after failing to serve out the match at 5-4.

Stanford had also taken the doubles point from Georgia in their previous meeting, but lost four singles matches, so they were not likely to be complacent, and they proved it by coming out strong in singles. They were up a break in the first set in four matches, and while Georgia never conceded, the Bulldogs couldn't find the quick first point they needed to stem Stanford's momentum. Stanford's Lampl couldn't end her match over Carle at line 3 on her first attempt, but she put Stanford up 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-4 win. Lord, who won the last match on last year to give her team a 4-3 win over Vanderbilt, had her struggles closing out Marta Gonzalez at line 2, but she made it 3-0 with a 6-2. 6-4 victory, holding on a deciding point after failing to convert four match points serving for the match at 5-2.

By this time Shin had gone up a break at line 5 and she finished the job, beating Christofi by the same score as the other two completed matches, 6-2, 6-4.

Despite their consistent success, and three of the last four NCAA championships, these back-to-back titles are the first for the Cardinal since they won three in a row in 2004-2006.

NCAA Division I Men’s Final
May 19, 2019, USTA National Campus
Orlando Florida

#2 Texas 4, #4 Wake Forest 1
Singles competition
1. #7 Christian Sigsgaard (UT) def. #11 Borna Gojo (WF) 6-3, 6-4
2. #12 Yuya Ito (UT) def. #8 Petros Chrysochos (WF) 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
3. #80 Leonardo Telles (UT) vs. #50 Bar Botzer (WF) 6-3, 6-7(8), 1-0, unfinished
4. #55 Harrison Scott (UT) vs. Rrezart Cungu (WF) 2-6, 7-6(6), 5-0, unfinished
5. Colin Markes (UT) def. Melios Efstathiou (WF) 6-4, 7-5
6. Rodrigo Banzer (UT) def. Siddhant Banthia (WF) 7-5, 6-4

Doubles competition
1. #63 Alan Gadjiev/Borna Gojo (WF) def. #5 Harrison Scott/Christian Sigsgaard (UT) 6-4
2. #55 Bar Botzer/Petros Chrysochos (WF) def. Colin Markes/Leonardo Telles (UT) 6-3
3. Chih Chi Huang/Yuya Ito (UT) def. Siddhant Banthia/Julian Zlobinsky (WF) 6-2

Order of finish: Doubles (3,2,1); Singles (1,6,5,2)

NCAA Division I Women’s Final
May 19, 2019, USTA National Campus
Orlando Florida

#3 Stanford 4, #1 Georgia 0
Singles competition
1. #2 Katarina Jokic (UGA) vs. #24 Michaela Gordon (STAN) 7-5, 3-2, unfinished
2. #29 Melissa Lord (STAN) def. #19 Marta Gonzalez (UGA) 6-2, 6-4
3. #66 Caroline Lampl (STAN) def. #69 Lourdes Carle (UGA) 6-2, 6-4
4. #72 Vivian Wolff (UGA) vs. #44 Emily Arbuthnott (STAN) 7-5, 3-3, unfinished
5. #108 Janice Shin (STAN) def. Elena Christofi (UGA) 6-2, 6-4
6. Meg Kowalski (UGA) vs. #107 Emma Higuchi (STAN) 6-7(3), 2-0, unfinished

Doubles competition
1. #28 Lourdes Carle/Katarina Jokic (UGA) def. #19 Kimberly Yee/Caroline Lampl (STAN) 6-1
2. #29 Michaela Gordon/Emily Arbuthnott (STAN) def. Elena Christofi/Vivian Wolff (UGA) 7-5
3. Janice Shin/Melissa Lord (STAN) def. Marta Gonzalez/Meg Kowalski (UGA) 6-3

Order of finish: Doubles (1,3,2); Singles (3,2,5)

The individual tournament begins Monday at 10:00 a.m., with men's singles matches, followed by women's singles matches. Nuno Borges of Mississippi State is the men's top seed; Ohio State's JJ Wolf is No. 2. Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami is the women's top seed, with Georgia Katarina Jokic the No. 2 seed. Doubles draws can be found in the Brackets window at the tournament website. Tennis Channel will be providing coverage of the singles and doubles tournaments throughout the week, beginning at 4 p.m. Monday.

The ITA announced its Division I National award winners today; more on each can be found here.

Wilson/ITA Coach of the Year
Men: Bid Goswami (Columbia University)
Women: Kevin Epley (University of South Carolina)

ITA Assistant Coach of the Year
Men: Devin Bowen (TCU)
Women: Cristina Sanchez-Quintar (University of Central Florida)

Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship Award
Men: Isaac Perez (US Air Force Academy)
Women: Sophie Whittle (Gonzaga University)

ITA Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award
Men: Paul Jubb (University of South Carolina)

ITA Cissie Leary Sportsmanship Award
Women: Emma Davis (Wake Forest University)

ITA Rookie of the Year
Men: Andrew Fenty (University of Michigan)
Women: Maria Mateas (Duke University)

ITA Player to Watch
Men: Oliver Crawford (University of Florida)
Women: Alexa Graham (University of North Carolina)

ITA Most Improved Senior
Men: Jason Kros (Virginia Tech University)
Women: Sophie Whittle (Gonzaga University)

ITA Senior Player of the Year
Men: Nuno Borges (Mississippi State University)
Women: Ingrid Martins (South Carolina)

A lot going on today, with three American women winning titles, with the youngest of those Elli Mandlik, who gave herself a birthday present today with a title at the $15,000 ITF World Tennis Tour event in Barletta Italy. No. 6 seed Mandlik, who turned 18 today, defeated No. 2 seed Oana Simion of Romania 6-0, 6-2 for her second career 15K title.

Twenty-four-year-old Bernarda Pera won the biggest title of her career at the $100,000 ITF WTT event in Slovakia. The No. 2 seed defeated unseeded Anna Blinkova 7-5, 7-5 in today's final.

And at the $15,000 ITF WTT in Naples Florida, No. 2 seed Katerina Stewart won her first title since last March, beating top seed Belinda Woolcock(Florida) of Australia 6-4, 6-3 in the final. Stewart had not played a match this year prior to this week.  Woolcock, the 2017 NCAA singles finalist, did win the doubles title, with former Purdue star Mara Schmidt. The No. 2 seeds beat unseeded 14-year-old Reese Brantmeier and 16-year-old Kimmi Hance 6-3, 5-7, 10-6 in the final.

Five American juniors have advanced to the main draw in the ITF Grade A in Milan, with qualifying again played on indoor hard courts due to rain. Will Grant, Ronan Jachuck, Ellie Coleman and Katrina Scott earned their spots in the main draw with two wins today. Blaise Bicknell lost in the final round of qualifying, but made the field as a lucky loser. For more on today's qualifying, see the TennisUnderworld site.

Qualifying begins for men Monday at the French Open, with ten Americans on the schedule: Tennys Sandgren[1], Bjorn Fratangelo[20], Mitchell Krueger, Noah Rubin, Ryan Harrison[9], Chris Eubanks, Tim Smyczek, Michael Mmoh[22] (who hasn't played since Australian Open), Marcos Giron, Donald Young. Giron and Young will play each other. Women's qualifying begins on Tuesday.  The men's qualifying draw is here and the order of play is here.