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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Top-ranked Thompson Falls to Cid as Seeds Struggle on Opening Day of NCAA Division I Individual Championships

©Colette Lewis 2014--
Athens, GA--

It's safe to say you can expect the unexpected in the first round of the NCAA individual tournament, which gives none of the players, including those in Tuesday's team final, any time to recover from the emotional and physical demands of the team tournament.

Those in the team final are given late starts, so the women's top two seeds, North Carolina's Jamie Loeb and UCLA's Robin Anderson, have yet to take the court, but already three of the top four men's seeds are out, including top seed Clay Thompson of UCLA.

The upsets came early and often, with No. 3 seed Julian Lenz of Baylor falling to No. 54 Andrew Adams of South Carolina 6-1, 6-3 in a 9 a.m. match, followed closely by No. 4 Julia Elbaba's 6-2, 6-2 loss to No. 51 Krista Hardebeck of Stanford.

Hardebeck had had a difficult sophomore season playing No. 2 for the Cardinal and had lost all three of her matches in the team competition in straight sets, but she took Wednesday match as a fresh start.

"I really haven't had the best season and my team unfortunately lost in the semis, so I just figured I'd go out there, give it my all, just swing away, because at this point I really have nothing to lose," Hardebeck said. I don't think she played her best today, unfortunately, but that worked to my advantage."

Hardebeck, who played a key role in Stanford's team title in 2013, felt the 4-3 loss to North Carolina keenly.

"The teams, we all wanted it so bad, especially when you're defending champion," said Hardebeck, who said her win over Elbaba was her best this season. "I already knew what it felt like to win, and I wanted it so bad, so it was really, really disappointing for all of us. But I just said, well, I'm not fighting for a team anymore, I'm right back out there by myself, and it almost feels like a summer tournament to me. I hardly feel like this is a college tournament anymore, I've just been playing team so much."

UCLA's Mackenzie McDonald had had the opposite results from Hardebeck in the team tournament, winning two matches and leading in an unfinished one, but his draw in his first NCAA individual tournament was not a great one: No. 4 seed Mitchell Frank of Virginia.  McDonald, a freshman, had gotten a wild card into the All-Americans in Tulsa last October and drawn Frank in the first round, losing to the Cavalier junior 6-7(1), 6-1, 6-2, with Frank going on to win the tournament.

"I was pretty excited to play Mitchell again," said McDonald, who closed out a tough last game, saving a set point en route to a 6-2, 7-5 victory. "I lost to him at the beginning of the year and this is the end of the year. I thought it would be a great match to see improvements, to see where I am, and I'm really happy to pull it out, because it shows me I've improved, gotten better since the start of the year."

McDonald was relieved to finish off Frank in two sets.

"The difference between Mitchell and a lot of players is that he's always in every single point," said McDonald. "That last service game I played was really tight and I'm really happy I was able to keep my focus because every point counts against him. He can change things around pretty quickly, he's a good player."

The early start time was a challenge for McDonald, but it did keep him out of the worst of the Georgia heat, which made it first real appearance Wednesday, with temperatures near 90.

"I've eaten breakfast later than my match time every single day since I've been here," McDonald said. "This is the earliest I've been up in a couple of weeks. It was tough getting up, but I got out there and I was really pumped on the match. I was ready."

McDonald's teammate and No. 2 seed Marcos Giron had no difficulty with Tennessee's Hunter Reese, but top-ranked and No. 1 seed Clay Thompson couldn't solve University of South Florida's Roberto Cid, dropping his afternoon match 6-3, 6-3.

Cid, a sophomore playing his first season of college tennis, knew he was facing a challenge against Thompson, who serves and volleys as much as possible.

"We saw him earlier this week when he played in the team championships, so my coach and I sat down and talked about it," said Cid. "We talked about the tactics I had to do, what I had to do in order to be successful today, and I think I did great on that, and I'm very excited."

Cid, who has already played five Davis Cup ties for his home country of the Dominican Republic, winning two matches in five attempts, said his unexpected win today was one of the highlights of his tennis career.

"I did work hard all year for this tournament. It's definitely a great achievement to beat the No. 1 guy in the country," said Cid, 20. "I'm very excited for what's coming. I'm looking forward to tomorrow."

In addition to Thompson, Lenz and Frank, No. 6 seed Alex Domijan ended his outstanding career at Virginia with a loss, going out to No. 38 Leandro Toledo of Minnesota 6-7(4), 7-6(12), 6-4.

Number 9 seed Brayden Schnur of North Carolina, who was named ITA Rookie of the Year at yesterday's award banquet, lost to Alex Sarkissian of Pepperdine in a thriller on court 1. Sarkissian saved a match point in the third set tiebreaker, whipping a forehand passing shot past Schnur, who was serving at 6-5. Schnur then double faulted, and on Sakissian's first match point sent a backhand long for a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6) victory.  Sakissian, ranked 28th, had reached the round of 16 in 2013.

Other women's seeds falling were No. 9 seeds Emina Bektas of Michigan and Cristina Stancu of Texas A&M. Lynn Chi of Cal saved a match point in the second set tiebreaker to defeat Bektas 2-6, 7-6(6), 6-1, while 2012 semifinalist Zsofi Susanyi, also of Cal, beat Stancu 6-0, 6-4. 

Because I am attending the ITA Men's College Hall of Fame dinner this evening to see former Kalamazoo College coach and National tournament director Timon Corwin's induction, I will not be staying until the end of tonight's singles. I hope to update all results later this evening.

UPDATE: 11:00 PM

With the completion of the day's matches, only five seeds remain in the men's tournament, No. 2 Marcos Giron of UCLA and four 9 seeds:
Peter Kobelt of Ohio State, Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas, Nik Scholtz of Ole Miss and Winston Lin of Columbia, who was seeded when Kentucky's Tom Jomby was unable to compete due to injury.  Two seeds--No. 5 Guillermo Alcorta and No. 7 Axel Alvarez of Oklahoma--withdrew, with alternates taking their places. Sooners Dane Webb and Andrew Harris both won their first round matches. USC's Yannick Hanfmann and Raymond Sarmiento both lost, while Roberto Quiroz withdrew. USC's Jonny Wang, who did not play in the team tournament, is the only Trojan remaining in singles. 

The women's seeds playing into the evening all advanced, including all four UCLA players in the draw--Robin Anderson(2), Jennifer Brady(8), Chanelle Van Nguyen(9-16) and Kyle McPhillips.  North Carolina's Jamie Loeb(1) and Hayley Carter(7) won their first round matches in straight sets, while Caroline Price lost in three to Van Nguyen.

Complete draws, with times for Thursday's singles and doubles matches, can be found at georgiadogs.com.


Joe said...

These guys will never make it in the pros if they don't learn how to grind out matches from day to day.

Tennisforlife said...

What a dissapointment UVA have been. They looked better at every position versus USC but got smoked 5-1 (would have been 6-1) and now they flame out of the individuals. It's interesting to me that inspite of their glittering recruiting line up year after year they do not have a single player making an impact in the pros. Might give Altimairano some pause as be decides what to do. May have been better to look to a Cali school to develope his game.

Zero impact on a pros.. said...

It's about priorities and the individual tournament just isn't a big priority for a lot of them whether going pro or not. They just finished finals and the team competition, they are done and understandably so. Time to move on. The pros aren't having to worry about classes, homework and exams the day or two before they play their biggest matches. A team match takes way more out of a player than playing as an individual as well. The last teams standing played their hearts out then celebrate a great journey. Good for them. Congrats to USC and all that went deep in the team championships and those that are committed enough to play college tennis while grinding through a degree. The individuals - just not a big deal to a lot of them. But to the one that thinks it is and wants that WC, good for them too.

Same Story, Same Ending said...


UVA does have players who are playing pro tennis: only a couple making a dent - Somdev Devvarman & Inglot/Huey.

What UVA has done is rather incredible over the past 10 years but taking it a step further, you have to treat/judge them with the top teams; so you have to say they way they have played in the later rounds of the NCAA's has been a massive disappointment year after year for the past 8-10 years.

USC has been the dynasty team; stealing it away from UVA. Peter Smith doing a tremendous coaching job with lesser recruiting classes. That is true coaching.

UVA always has the best team on paper so they recruit really well but they must not know how to relate to their players, how to bring the best out of their players because they seem to always freeze during the biggest moments.

Peter Smith & Manny Diaz are player-coaches and they win the titles, they also produce player(s) in the pros. Their teams would do anything for them.

You need to have the players to win & players win championships. However, the players know if they trust their coach in the big moments, they either rise or sink and it seems UVA always seems to find the iceberg to hit at the end.

Unknown said...

Didn't UVA win last year? Yes they did. So they didn't sink did they? When was the last time before them that a northern team won the NCAA's? They do have to play quite a bit of indoor tennis at UVA! Indoor tennis is very different than outdoors and that is why teams that compete outdoors every day usually win at the Big Dance!

Go Hoos said...

Tennisforlife, You say UVA does "not have a single player making an impact in the pros." Using that rationale, either you have to say no one in recent times (not USC, not UVa, not anyone) has produced a player making an impact in the pros or you don't follow the progress of former college players.

For our purposes, let's consider making an impact as a top 25 pro and consider recent years as the past 7 years or since the great 2007 class.

Name one impact player besides Isner or Anderson, who have both reached the top 20? They both left school in 2007, that's a long time ago now. I also guess that means that Diaz and Brad Dancer are the best coaches for producing successful pros, right? Of course not. There are other quality coaches.

Name one other successful pro (let's simply call success as playing as a professional for at least 4 to 5 years) that either Diaz or Dancer has produced in the past 10 years. I'm not sure there is even one. No doubt Diaz is a fantastic college coach, but who are his other recent pros? You could say KU Singh, but I doubt UGA even claims him.

Klahn has made a great start as a pro, reaching the #60s. Does that mean Whitlinger at Stanford is one of the better coaches to help prepare a player for the pros?

Let's compare the pros that Peter Smith has produced vs. Boland, using the past 10 years.

Both coaches have a two time NCAA Singles Champ who reached the 60s in the ATP singles ranking. Devvarman hit #62 before suffering a serious shoulder injury in 2011 that kept him off the tour for a year. As college fans, we all hope Johnson keeps moving up the rankings.

Emilio Gomez and Jarmere Jenkins have both reached the low 200s within a year of leaving school.

Robert Farah had a good start in singles on the Challenger circuit before concentrating on doubles. He's now #25, a career high. Treat Huey/Dom Inglot were the #1 seeds at the Dusseldorf event this week. Their career high rankings are #20 (currently 22) and #18 (Inglot's current ranking) respectively.

The only other current USC pro I believe is Nguyen, ranked in the 800s.

Did you realize that every member of UVa's 2008 team is still playing professional tennis? The other members of the top 6 are Singh (now #376), Shabaz (#444) and Angelinos (#269). Those aren't great rankings, but the guys are still grinding away. UVA seemingly has more current pros than anyone else.

Smith and Diaz have certainly been more successful college coaches than Boland, particularly in crunch time of the team event. I understand your point here. Smith's recent run is extremely impressive.

However, would you clarify how and why you think Smith and Diaz are better at producing pros than Boland is?

In my opinion, each of three, was fortunate to recruit/coach/develop one of the best college players of all-time. In addition, each coach has produced a few other successful pros.

tennisforlife said...

Go Hoos - I am making a relative comparison. Over the past 5 of 6 years Boland has had the dream team of recruiting classes year after year blowing away USC and UGA and they have just not been able to deliver aside from last year with an assist from Puget's toe. Admittedly we don't have a statistically significant sample size but his star studded recruiting classes are not blowing any of the other school's away in the pro's.I think you have to evaluate a coach on what he or she does with the raw product. Boland seems to turn blue chip raw material into a 5 star product. Smith's raw material doesn't match up to Boland's but he delivers national champions. And I think that is reflected post college as well.

SinglesDoubles said...

Colette - this could be a whole new post for you, but curious to get your thoughts on the singles and doubles championships. I've found that there is such a difference in energy going from the team to the individual event. Many of the top players don't perform well, sometimes from fatigue from the team event and there are very few spectators. Do you think it needs an overhaul?

get real said...

Honestly...looking at the singles draw and the upsets- there is no legit #1 player- D1 tennis is embarrassingly weak compared to just a few years ago. There are no players the caliber of a Steve Johnson. Rhyne Williams, Austin Krakeck, Bradley Klahn or Blas Rolo. What happened?

Colette Lewis said...

@get real:
People were saying the exact same thing two years ago, when Johnson and Rola were playing, comparing them unfavorably to Isner, Devvarman and Anderson.

Agree with getreal said...

Colette, I disagree with you and agree with getreal. Two years ago, Johnson was a dominant #1 player on a long win streak. Three years ago wasn't he the #1 seed or highly seeded and again on a noteworthy win streak heading in to Palo Alto?

Rola might not have had the college win streak, but he had a very successful prior summer/fall in the pros and had a noteworthy ATP ranking, while in college

There is not currently a college player who has proven success at the Challenger level, like Rola did while still in college or sustained a lengthy win streak at #1 like Johnson.

Maybe a "new" star will emerge this week, but Johnson and Rola were proven commodities prior to their NCAA Individual success.

This year's tournament feels more like the season when Devin Britton won.

Seeing all the upsets makes Johnson's feats (Team and Singles titles together) all the more impressive.

Colette Lewis said...

My point is that it's easy to see great players in hindsight. Nedovyesov and Brugues were both in the 2009 draw. There are excellent players every year. It just takes a few years to identify who they are.

Colette Lewis said...

My point is that it's easy to see great players in hindsight. Nedovyesov and Brugues were both in the 2009 draw. There are excellent players every year. It just takes a few years to identify who they are.

Go Hoos said...

Colette, did you notice that, coincidentally, Nedovyesov plays Devvarman in the first round at Roland Garros?