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Sunday, September 25, 2011

Andrews Wins All-Cal Shootout to Capture Land Rover Napa Valley Classic

©Colette Lewis 2011--
St. Helena, CA--

With its location and its history with Cal as host, the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic usually attracts many Bear fans, who vocally support the players throughout the three day tournament. That didn't change this year, with the navy blue and gold T-shirts and windbreakers much in evidence Friday and Saturday. But on a rain-shortened final day at the Meadowood resort, the Bear fans were eerily quiet during the wild card shootout that ends the tournament. It was not because there weren't enough Cal players, but because there were too many. Nick Andrews ended up defeating teammate and roommate Ben McLachlan 10-7 to capture the tournament title and USTA Pro Circuit wild card, which delighted the assembled Cal fans, even if they didn't have a reason to take sides.

"Obviously, this tournament is fixed," joked Cal head coach Peter Wright, as he was announcing the names of the finalists to the crowd assembled on the double-level deck that overlooks court 4.

When Andrews and McLachlan took the court for the final, the sun came out for the first time all day, and whether it was nerves or the novelty of playing a teammate in an important match, the quality of play wasn't particularly high to start the 10-point tiebreaker. Andrews double faulted twice in the first seven points and McLachlan, who relies on his first serve to set up his shots, wasn't as sharp with it as he had been earlier in the day. McLachlan, a sophomore from New Zealand, took a 6-3 lead, but Andrews made it 6-5, winning both points on his serve with a patented forehand winner and a good first serve that produced a return error. McLachlan hit an ace to lead 7-5 on the second changeover, but Andrews then came up with the unlikely shot that produced smiles from both players.

McLachlan was in position to rip a winner past Andrews, who was at his mercy at the service line, but somehow Andrews stuck his racquet down to his shoe tops and half-volleyed a clean winner to make it 7-6.

"I got pretty lucky," said Andrews, a senior from nearby Folsom, Calif. "I made a lucky little stab pickup volley and that changed the momentum a little. I'm kind of known for the lucky shots on my team, so I guess I just pulled another one out of the bag."

Despite the unlikelihood of losing a point in that fashion, McLachlan wasn't surprised.

"That's a typical Nick shot," said McLachlan, who is rooming with Andrews at the home of Clay and Barbara Timon this weekend. "He pulls off shots that you just wouldn't believe. I thought I had the point, but he just comes up with something special. Too good, too good."

McLachlan didn't win another point after that shot, with Andrews ending the tiebreaker with a down-the-line forehand winner.

Wright and assistant coach Tyler Browne did no coaching of either player, watching from off the court, but they weren't complaining about the lack of work.

"It was a dream for me," said Wright, who has brought his team to this event for the past 11 years, organizing the first nine events until turning the administration over to the USTA, so that a junior team could participate. "That's part of the excitement of this whole format, that anything can happen once a shootout starts. The guys all earned their way into the shootout, and for me, I couldn't have dreamed of a better finish to the whole event."

Due to the rain on Sunday, only five of the 16 matches on the schedule were completed when the rain, which threatened to fall throughout the morning, finally arrived. Due to an early afternoon flight, the Tulsa team had to leave before play resumed after 1:00 p.m. making the process of deciding the eight shootout participants even more complicated than usual. Andrews, Ahmed Ismail of Cal and Alexios Halebian of the USTA junior national team had all advanced prior to the rain, but the other five round robin group winners had to be decided by ad hoc means due to the time constraints, with Connor Farren, Luca Corinteli and McLachlan benefiting from the Tulsa team's departure. With Vanderbilt and Tennessee also departing prior to the beginning of the shootout, several players advanced without needing to play, and two of the final eight participants were decided not by defaults but by a preliminary match tiebreaker. Notre Dame's Sam Keeton, who beat Clay Thompson of UCLA 10-5, and McLachlan, who beat Corinteli of the USTA team 11-9, earned the final two spots in that manner.

After two days of competition that often involved lengthy three-set matches, the wild card shootout seems to end in a flurry of points, although it actually did take more than 90 minutes to decide the winner. The USTA junior national team had a strong showing, with both Farren and Halebian reaching the semifinals, before losing to McLachlan and Andrews by 10-7 scores, and UCLA also had three players undefeated coming into Sunday's play--Thompson, Adrien Puget and Warren Hardie.

With Cal's Ahmed Ishmail, a substitution for Carlos Cueto, who sprained his ankle a few days ago but still hopes to play the All-American tournament next month, also in the final eight, Andrews expects good things from the Bears this year.

"We had a great season last year," said Andrews, referring to Cal's appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16. "We hope to build on that. We lost our top player Pedro Zerbini, but we're still looking strong as long as we're healthy."

As for winning the Pro Circuit wild card, Andrews couldn't have been more pleased, not just with the result, but with his level of play throughout the weekend.

"It feels amazing," said Andrews, who was presented with the Norma Miner Outstanding Player Award by tournament director Doug King of Meadowood. "I couldn't have asked for a better tournament senior year. I was really happy with my performance."

Sunday’s completed singles results:
Nick Andrews (Cal) def. Blake Bazarnik (Vanderbilt), 6-2, 6-0
Ed Jones (Tennessee) def. JC Arragone (USTA), 6-3, 4-1, retired
Ahmed Ismail (Cal) def. Nikko Madregallejo (USTA), 6-3, 6-1
Japie De Klerk (Tulsa) def. Alex DiValerio (Vanderbilt), 6-3, 6-2
Alexios Halebian (USTA) def. Greg Andrews (Notre Dame), 7-6 (2), 6-4
Warren Hardie (UCLA) def. Hunter Reese (Tennessee), injury default
Sam Keeton (Notre Dame) def. Clay Thompson (UCLA), 10-5 (tiebreaker)
Ben McLachlan (Cal), def. Luca Corinteli (USTA), 11-9 (tiebreaker)
Connor Farren (USTA) advances to Wild Card Shootout after Tulsa ’s Marsland defaults.

N. Andrews (Cal) def. Hardie (UCLA), 10-8
Farren (USTA) def. Ismail (Cal), 10-8
Halebian (USTA) def. Keeton (Notre Dame), 10-1
McLachlan (Cal) def. Puget (UCLA), 10-2
B. McLachlan (Cal) def. Halebian (USTA), 10-7
N. Andrews (Cal) def. Farren (USTA), 10-7
N. Andrews (Cal) def. B. McLachlan (Cal), 10-7