Sunday, November 8, 2020

Graham, Hilderbrand Capture ITA National Fall Titles; Korda Wins First ATP Challenger; Sherif, Galarneau Claim USTA Pro Circuit Titles

North Carolina's Alexa Graham and Central Florida's Trey Hilderbrand won their first collegiate major titles today at the ITA National Fall Championships at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona Florida. 

The finals, which were shown live on ESPNU, were moved indoors to the six-court facility on campus due to weather concerns, with rain in the area most of the day. 

Graham, the No. 3 seed, defeated No. 4 seed Abbey Forbes of UCLA 6-4, 6-2 in Sunday's first final. Fifth-year senior Graham, who was a finalist in last year's ITA All-American Championships, was the better of the two on the many deciding points in the match, winning six of eight, including four in the second set. Her ability to turn defense into offense, and maneuver points to set up her forehand, gave her the edge in the final. Forbes was impressive in her run to the final, with three dominating wins Friday and Saturday, but the 19-year-old sophomore from North Carolina was more erratic today. She may gain some solace from the fact that she won two more games than any one else did against Graham this weekend, who lost only 16 in five matches.  Graham, a 22-year-old from New York, is the second consecutive Tar Heel to win the ITA Fall Nationals title; Sara Daavettila, who is also returning for a fifth year, took the title last year.

While the move indoors didn't seem to favor either of the women's finalists, it may have had an impact on the men's final between Central Florida teammates Gabriel Decamps and Trey Hilderbrand. Sophomore Hilderbrand, the No. 8 seed, is a dedicated serve-and-volleyer, while junior Decamps is a more conventional baseliner, and it was Hilderbrand who was able to ride the match's ups and downs for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory.

Decamps, the No. 3 seed, had his passing shots working in the first set and when he broke Hilderbrand on a deciding point at 4-all in the first set, then held at love, he looked in control.

But the 20-year-old Hilderbrand, who has a substantially bigger serve, was able to get off to a good start in the second set, taking a 5-1 lead, while Decamps, 21, saw his passing shots break down and his serving deteriorate.

In the third set, Decamps double faulted on the deciding point in the third game and that marked the end of his competitive interest. Hilderbrand, a San Antonio native, won ten points in a row to go up 4-1, and quickly finished off his teammate in the next two games to capture the first major collegiate title for a player from Central Florida.

Both champions collected $2000 in prize money, while the finalists received $1000. Links to the draws can be found here.

After losing his first eight finals on the ITF World Tennis Tour and the ATP Challenger circuit, 20-year-old Sebastian Korda finally broke through today at the Challenger 100 tournament in Eckental Germany. Korda, the No. 7 seed, defeated unseeded Ramkumar Ramanathan of India 6-4, 6-4, converting three of his five break points, while Ramanathan could manage only one break in the match on four opportunities. Korda is now up to a career-high of 116, up 20 places due to his title this week. The ATP website has more on Korda's first professional title here.

One current and one former collegian collected titles today on the USTA Pro Circuit, with North Carolina State fifth-year senior Alexis Galarneau taking the $15K in Arkansas and former Pepperdine All-American Mayar Sherif claiming the women's $100,000 tournament title in Charleston South Carolina. Sherif, who made history at the French Open as the first woman from her country to play in the main draw of a grand slam, defeated unseeded Katarzyna Kawa 6-2, 6-3 in the final for the biggest title of her career. The 2018 NCAA singles semifinalist won seven matches in seven days, the first two in qualifying, to earn the title; she is now up to a career-high 132 in the WTA rankings.

Galarneau, a 21-year-old from Canada, was eligible to compete in the Fall Championships, but decided to play in a Pro Circuit event this week instead. That decision paid off in his first pro title, with the No. 7 seed defeating former USC Trojan and No. 2 seed Roberto Quiroz of Ecuador 6-2, 6-1. Galarneau faced only two break points in the match, and saved both.