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Monday, February 10, 2020

North Carolina Women Blank UCLA for Fourth Team Indoor Title; 15 Americans Begin Play at Brazil's Grade A Banana Bowl; US Advances to Fed Cup Final; Men's Davis Cup Team Named

North Carolina wins its fourth ITA Team Indoor title
(photo via ITA)
The North Carolina Tar Heels claimed their fourth ITA Women's Team Indoor Championship Monday in Chicago, with the No. 2 seeds defeating No. 4 seeds UCLA 4-0.  Although it will go in the record books as a shutout, North Carolina had to negotiate some tough moments, first to win the doubles point, and then in closing out the singles portion of the competition.

One minute after North Carolina won the doubles match on court 2, with Cameron Morra and Elizabeth Scotty beating Abbey Forbes and Annette Goulak 6-2, UCLA's Elysia Bolton and Jada Hart handed Sara Daavettila and Alexa Graham their first lost of the year by the same score. That put the doubles point in the hands of the No. 3 court, where North Carolina's Makenna Jones and Alle Sanford were up 5-3 against Abi Altick and Taylor Johnson, after Jones had held from 15-40 down.  Altick and Johnson saved two match points in the next game, with Altick holding from 30-40 down. Serving for the match at 5-4, Sanford double faulted, badly, three straight times to give Altick and Johnson three break points, but with Jones active at the net, UNC brought it back to the deuce point. Sanford then double faulted again, to make it 5-5, but Johnson lost her serve on a deciding point to give Jones her opportunity to close it. Up 40-0, Jones lost the team's fourth match point, but a good first serve sealed match point No. 5 for the Tar Heels.

UCLA got a quick lead at line 3, with Hart blanking Morra in the first set, but Jones, who played No. 1 for North Carolina last year at the Team Indoor, dominated Goulak at line 5, and it was Jones who earned the first first set and the second Tar Heel point, with a 6-0, 6-2 victory. North Carolina had won four first sets, to give themselves a comfortable advantage, and when Graham took the first set from Bolton in a tiebreaker at 1, the Bruins chances looked bleak.  Morra fought back to take the second set at line 3, while Scotty closed out Altick at line 4 to give North Carolina a 3-0 lead.
Alexa Graham clinches the win for the Tar Heels
(photo courtesy ITA/Jacob Dye)
Sanford had looked like the clincher, up 6-2, 5-2, over Sasha Vagramov at line 6, but she couldn't close, with Vagramov giving the Bruins hope by winning four straight games and forcing a tiebreaker. But while the freshman from Canada was coming back, Graham had opened up a lead second set lead on Bolton at line 1, and the senior efficiently closed it out, clinching North Carolina's fourth championship, all since 2013.

The Tar Heels are now tied for third with Georgia in all-time National Indoor titles, with Stanford[10] and Florida[7] the only teams ahead of them.

For more on the match, see this account from the North Carolina website.

ITA Women’s Division I National Team Indoor Championships
February 10, 2020
North Carolina[2] d. UCLA[4] 4-0

Bolton/Hart (UCLA) def. Daavettila/Graham (UNC) 6-2
Morra/Scotty (UNC) def. Forbes/Goulak (UCLA) 6-2
Jones/Sanford (UNC) def. Altick/Johnson (UCLA) 7-5

Order of finish: 2, 1, 3

#7 Alexa Graham (UNC) def. #14 Elysia Bolton (UCLA) 7-6(4), 6-3
#4 Sara Daavettila (UNC) vs. #5 Abbey Forbes (UCLA) 7-5, 3-6, unfinished
#9 Cameron Morra (UNC) vs. #16 Jada Hart (UCLA) 0-6, 6-4, 2-2, unfinished
Elizabeth Scotty (UNC) def. Abi Altick (UCLA) 6-4, 6-1
#101 Makenna Jones (UNC) def. #112 Annette Goulak (UCLA) 6-0, 6-2
#36 Alle Sanford (UNC) vs. Sasha Vagramov (UCLA) 6-2, 6-6(5-2), unfinished

Order of finish: 5, 4, 1

The second Grade A of the year is underway this week in Brazil, with four US boys and 11 US girls in the main draw of the Banana Bowl. The boys competing for their first Grade A title this week are Dali Blanch[4], Bruno Kuzuhara[12], Victor Lilov and Murphy Cassone.  As he has been in the last three South American Grade 1s, Nathan Rodrigues of Brazil is the top seed. Luciano Darderi of Italy, who won those three tournaments, is seeded No. 2 and Cassone has drawn him in the first round.

The US girls competing this week are Madison Sieg[6], Elvina Kalieva[8], Sofia Rojas[12], Isabelle Kouzmanov[13], Hibah Shaikh, Tara Malik, Alexis Blokhina, Hina Inoue, Dakota Fordham, Emma Jackson and qualifier Krystal Blanch.

Late Saturday night, the US Fed Cup team advanced to April's 12-team final in Budapest Hungary, beating Latvia 3-2.  Serena Williams and Sofia Kenin gave the US a 2-0 lead on Friday, but Jelena Ostapenko and Anastasia Sevastova beat Kenin and Williams in the reverse singles to send the tie to a deciding doubles match, which Kenin and Bethanie Mattek-Sands won, 6-4, 6-0, over Ostapenko and Sevastova. For more on the tie, see this article from usta.com.

The USTA announced its Davis Cup team for next month's qualifying match against Uzbekistan, with Taylor Fritz, Reilly Opelka, Tommy Paul and the Bryan brothers hoping to send the US to November's Davis Cup competition in Madrid. It will be the last Davis Cup appearance for the Bryan brothers, who are retiring this year. Fritz and Opelka played on the US Davis Cup team last year; it is Paul's first time on the team. The tie is March 6th and 7th in Honolulu. Click here for today's announcement from the USTA.