Sunday, November 11, 2012

Jenkins, Anderson Claim USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships; USC, Duke Capture Doubles Titles

©Colette Lewis 2012--
Flushing Meadows, NY--

Virginia senior Jarmere Jenkins and UCLA sophomore Robin Anderson finished their impressive progress through the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships draws Sunday, claiming the prestigious titles with straight-set wins in their first appearances in a collegiate major final.

Anderson, the No. 5 seed, defeated unseeded Anett Schutting of Cal 6-3, 6-4, while Jenkins, the No. 6 seed, played some inspired tennis in his 6-2, 6-1 win over unseeded Sebastian Fanselow of Pepperdine.

The two finals, played simultaneously on the courts of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, could not have started more differently.  Anderson rolled through the first four games, while Jenkins and Fanselow were still at 1-1 after two long holds.

Two more lengthy games made it 2-2, and it was there that Jenkins found another gear. After a quick hold, Jenkins got the break, using his speed and his precision to instantaneously go from defense to offense.  Even when pushed way deep or wide in the court, Jenkins didn't concede anything, and as Fanselow closed the net to put away what should have been a weak reply, the Pepperdine senior instead saw clean winners whiz past him.

Fanselow was broken to end the first set, and Jenkins held in the first game of the second to make it five games in row. Fanselow needed a hold badly, but he couldn't get it, as Jenkins hit a winner from somewhere close to the ITA banner, a shot so improbably good that Fanselow could only shake his head, while the spectators gathered behind Court 9 were wishing for an instant replay.

After that, Fanselow began to press, making more unforced errors and few first serves, and when he was broken for the fourth straight time, there wasn't much drama left. He did save three match points serving at 0-5 in the second, ending Jenkins' streak of games at nine, but this was not the day for a miraculous comeback.

Serving at 5-1, Jenkins went up 40-0, then after toweling off and gathering himself, he blasted an ace as an exclamation point to one of the best matches of his college career.

"It was just the mentality I had from the start of the point, chasing down every single ball," said Jenkins. "A couple of those winners, it was just me willing it in. At 3-2 in the first set, the backhand that I hit to break him, I just kind of willed that one in. I looked at the umpire, looked at my coach to see if it was in, and I didn't hear a call, so that was good."

"Everyone comes out with a lot of energy, and it was one of my goals to just try to keep that up every single point," said Jenkins, who did not lose a set in his five victories. "He kind of faded away a little bit, but I was persistent on every single point."

Fanselow, who, like Jenkins, received a wild card into the tournament, had nothing but praise for his opponent's play in the final.

"He just played too good for me today," said Fanselow, who had won their only previous meeting in three sets in last May's NCAA team semifinal. "I stuck with him maybe the first five games and then I feel he stepped up a gear that I couldn't get to today. He served really well, attacked well and he didn't give me any free points, and that's what I would have needed today."

Jenkins now joins two other teammates with major collegiate titles, with Mitchell Frank, last year's All-American and Indoor champion, and Alex Domijan, a two-time All-American champion. Yet it is Somdev Devvarman, the two-time NCAA champion, who swept the singles and doubles titles at the Indoors in 2007, who has proven to be an inspiration for him.

'It's great to be in the category with those guys, especially Somdev," Jenkins said. "He's coming back from injury now and I see the work ethic he puts in, and what he's capable of doing. I think we have pretty similar games. I feel good to be in that category with him, with Mitchell and Domo, and those guys are going to go on to do really incredible things in tennis and in life."

The women's final was the reverse image of the men's, starting as one-sided and ending with Anderson needing all of her defensive skills to hold off Schutting.

"During the first few games she was making a few errors, but after the first three games she kind of settled in," said Anderson, the first UCLA woman to win the Indoor title since Jane Chi in 1995. "She started making her shots, and she hits the ball so big, it was difficult for me to try to dictate against her. I actually did play a lot of defense today, making her play a lot of balls. When I did find opportunities to be aggressive, I tried to capitalize on it."

Anderson served for the first set at 5-2, but couldn't convert on her only set point, with Schutting saving it with a forehand winner.  More big hitting gave Schutting the break, but in the next game she immediately was down three more set points.  She again saved them, with a rare unforced error by Anderson and two more winners, but Anderson finally took the set when Schutting netted a volley on set point number five.

The second set began much like the first, with Anderson taking a 3-0 lead, but Schutting kept herself in it, breaking Anderson for 2-3, then saving three break points in the next game to make it 3-3.

Three more holds gave Anderson a 5-4 lead, with Schutting needing to hold to extend the match.  At 15-30, Anderson took a rare chance to be aggressive, working her way into the net, then knocking off a forehand volley winner on a blistering pass attempt by Schutting. Schutting saved one of the resulting match points when Anderson missed her return, but on the second, Schutting's forehand found the net, giving Anderson her first major title.

"It feels great. I don't know how else to describe it," said Anderson, who won all five of her match in straight sets. "I'm still kind of in shock. It hasn't sunk in yet, but it will soon."

Anderson has no plans to celebrate, with a mid-term exam in Life Science coming up for her next week.

"I'll be studying for that on the way back, tomorrow and the next couple days," said Anderson, who grew up in nearby New Jersey. "So not too much celebrating."

Schutting will look back on the week as an important step in her college career, but believes she needs to find a way to improve her approach to finals.

"Being here in the final and playing it is just a really different feeling," said the junior from Estonia. "I think I still have to learn to manage my emotions better. I felt like I wanted to play better today; especially in the beginning, I couldn't find my focus. I'm happy that at the end I was able to find it, and I competed better. She's a great player, has a great serve, great shots, moves very well, and she's a tough competitor. I think she deserved to win today."

While all the singles finalists were playing in a collegiate major for the first time, the doubles finals produced champions with previous experience.

In the women's doubles, defending champions Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria of Southern California gave a convincing demonstration of their dominance, defeating the unseeded Virginia team of Stephanie Nauta and Li Xi 6-0, 6-0.

Christian and Santamaria, who won the doubles title at the ITA Riviera All-American Championships last month, are now comfortable on the big stage, while Nauta and Xi were playing in their first final.

"They may have had some jitters," said Santamaria, a sophomore. "This is a little bit intimidating," said Christian, a junior. "It's indoors, it's the Nationals, so I'm sure they were very nervous. We were used to it from last year, and we were able to go after it from the start."

Christian and Santamaria had a large cheering section for most of their matches, as all three USC doubles teams were in the draw, meaning the trip to New York was almost like traveling for a dual match, rather than an individual tournament.

"We have our entire lineup here, which is incredible," said Santamaria. "It's been such a fun trip here with them. We've told some of the other coaches and they can't believe we had three doubles team in the tournament and three in singles," said Christian.

"The added support they gave us today is tremendous," said Santamaria.

Christian and Santamaria now have one goal--the NCAA title.

"That's our ultimate goal," said Santamaria. "I think we've got some momentum going."

"Last year we kind of had a letdown in the season," said Christian. "This year we just want to play well for our team during the season, and then hopefully we'll go out and take the NCAAs."

In the men's doubles final, No. 2 seeds Henrique Cunha and Raphael Hemmeler of Duke took the title with a 6-4, 6-2 win over unseeded Hernus Pieters and Ben Wagland of Georgia.

Cunha was a finalist back in 2009, when he was a freshman, and he acknowledged a definite change in his approach to this year's final.

"I was ready to win this time," said Cunha, a senior. "My freshman year, everything was new. Reid (Carleton) and I were playing for the first time together. This year, I was more experienced. I went to bed last night feeling I was ready to win."

Hemmeler, a sophomore from Switzerland, was delighted to have Cunha as a partner.

"It's pretty special. He's one of the best players we've ever had at Duke," said Hemmeler, who, like Cunha, is a left-hander. "He's also a great person off the court. We're pretty close, good friends, so I'm really lucky to be in this position. As a sophomore, I was so happy to win regionals and just come here, without any expectations, and now to win this title here is amazing."

Cunha had to retire from his semifinal singles match with Jenkins on Saturday, but he said he knew he could get through the doubles final knowing it was his last match for a while.

"I spent hours in the training room just to play this match," said Cunha, whose parents had traveled from Brazil to watch him play this weekend. "I could leave everything on the court today. It was the last match of the season, and I know I'm going to have some days off now."

In addition to the championship matches, the finals of the consolation draws, for those losing in the first round, were also played Sunday.

In the men's singles, Matija Pecotic of Princeton defeated Peter Kobelt of Ohio State 7-6(5), 6-1.  In the women's singles, Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar of Texas A&M downed Alexa Guarachi of Alabama 7-6(4), 7-5.

The men's consolation title in doubles went to Georgia Tech's Vikram Hundal and Juan Spir, who beat Virginia's Alex Domijan and Harrison Richmond 9-8(4).  The consolation winners in women's doubles are Maci Epstein and Erin Vierra of Virginia, who defeated USC's Gabriella DeSimone and Zoe Scandalis 9-8(1).