Monday, February 17, 2020

USC Drops North Carolina 4-1 to Claim ITA Men's Team Indoor Title; Nakashima Posts First ATP Top 100 Win at Delray Beach

The University of Southern California 2020 Indoor Champions

The ITA Division I Men's Team Indoor Championships provided plenty of thrills and drama over the weekend, but that did not extend to today's final between No. 2 seed Southern Cal and No. 4 seed North Carolina.

USC had somehow overcome No. 11 seed Michigan 4-3 in the semifinals after losing the doubles point and five first sets in singles, while North Carolina had blanked both No. 5 Florida and No. 1 Ohio State in the quarterfinals and semifinals, but it was the Trojans who dominated in the final, taking it 4-1.

USC had lost the doubles point to both Michigan and TCU, but today they secured what was expected to be a crucial point with a win at line 1, with Daniel Cukierman and Riley Smith taking a tiebreaker from Will Blumberg and Brian Cernoch 7-6(5) after trailing 5-2 in that tiebreaker.
Rinky Hijikata and Benjamin Sigouin of UNC won at line 3, beating Stefan Dostancic and Bradley Frye 6-2, while USC quickly sent all attention to court 1 with Mor Bulis and Brandon Holt downing Mac Kiger and Simon Soendergaard by the same score at line 2.

USC picked up two quick first sets, with Cukierman getting one from Sigouin at line 2 and Dostanic one from Cernoch at line 5. But the Tar Heels had two quick first sets of their own, from Blumberg over Holt at line 1 and Soendergaard over Frye at line 6.  North Carolina got on the board when Holt, who had been ill all weekend and didn't play in the quarterfinals, retired after losing the first set 6-0. But Bulis took the first set from Joshua Peck at line 4, giving the Trojans a clear path to the title.  At line 3, Hijikata served for the first set against Smith at 5-4, but he was broken at 30-40, and when Smith went on to take the tiebreaker, USC had four first sets. By then, Cukierman had made it 2-1 with his 6-2, 6-1 win over Sigouin and, just a few minutes later, Dostanic closed out Cernoch 6-1, 6-4 to give USC a 3-1 lead.

Bulis had a big lead on Peck and served for the match and the championships at 6-3, 5-0, but was broken. Peck went up 40-0 in his next service game, but lost it on the deuce point, giving the Trojans a 4-1 victory in almost exactly two hours.

It's the fourth Team Indoor title for Southern California, whose previous three came in 1987, 1988 and 2012.

The ITA's recap of the final is here. USC's recap of the final is here.

ITA Men's Division I Team Indoor Championships
February 17, 2020

USC 4, North Carolina 1

(1) Cukierman/R. Smith (USC) vs. Blumberg/Cernoch 7-6(5)
(2) Bulis/Holt (USC) def. Kiger/Soendergaard (UNC) 6-2
(3) Hijikata/Sigouin (UNC) def. Dostanic/Frye (USC) 6-2

Order of finish: 3, 2, 1*

(1) William Blumberg (UNC) def. #24 Brandon Holt (USC) 6-0 ret.
(2) Daniel Cukierman (USC) def. #60 Ben Sigouin (UNC) 6-2, 6-1
(3) Riley Smith (USC) vs. Rinky Hijikata (UNC) 7-6(2), 2-3 susp.
(4) Mor Bulis (USC) def. #80 Josh Peck 6-3, 6-1*
(5) Stefan Dostanic (USC) def. Brian Cernoch (UNC) 6-1, 6-4
(6) Bradley Frye (USC) vs. Simon Soendergaard (UNC) 0-6, 6-3, 0-1 susp.

Order of finish: 1, 2, 5, 4*

There are no USTA Pro Circuit events this week for men or women, so the focus of US tennis is on the ATP 250 Delray Beach Open in Florida. Today 18-year-old wild card Brandon Nakashima made his ATP main draw debut there and got his first Top 100 win, beating Jiri Vesely of the Czech Republic 7-6(4), 6-1. Nakashima, who has competed in qualifying at both the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells and at the US Open, had previously played four other players in the ATP Top 100 before he took out No. 74 Vesely today. He will play the winner of the match between Taylor Fritz[3] and qualifier Cameron Norrie(TCU) of Great Britain.  Nick Kyrgios and Milos Raonic are the top two seeds in Delray Beach.

The ATP has a 5 Things to Know series about those having breakthroughs, and Nakashima is featured today.

If you are a Tennis Recruiting Network member, you can read my entire article on Nakashima from last month, when I spoke with him at the Ann Arbor Challenger. One update from that conversation is that Nakashima has in the past few weeks signed an endorsement agreement with Fila. At Ann Arbor, he was still wearing Lacoste, which had sponsored him as a junior, but he told me there were deals in the works, so I am not surprised by the switch.


Jon King said...

We had a back and forth about Ci Ci Bellis a few weeks ago and her involvement with the USTA program. But we all want her to be healthy, no matter our opinion on USTA high performance and how it allocates its funds. Sad to see that she has dropped out of all tournaments for the month of Feb. Lets hope for the best for her.