Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Top Seeds Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Aim for Men's and Women's Division III Team Titles Wednesday against Emory and Wesleyan; All-America Day at Division I Singles Tournament; Osuigwe and Gauff Earn Qualifying Wins at French Open; Top Seed Tauson Out in First Round of Grade A in Milan

©Colette Lewis 2019
Kalamazoo MI--

After a first day of routine wins for the top four seeds in Monday's quarterfinals, that changed on Tuesday, at least at the day's beginning and at its end. Although the weather continued cold and cloudy, the drama began with the first women's semifinal, with No. 3 Wesleyan defeating No. 2 seed Emory 5-4, and after two straightforward wins for top seeds Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, it ended with the second-seeded Emory men dethroning defending champions Middlebury 5-3.

The match between Wesleyan and Emory came down to the two freshmen at line 5, with Alexis Almy of Wesleyan coming from 4-1 down in the second set to defeat Jessica Fatemi 6-4, 6-4 and send the Cardinals to the first NCAA Division III team final in program history.

Wesleyan had taken a 2-1 lead in doubles, getting wins from sisters Victoria and Kristina Yu over Ysabel Gonzalez-Rico and Defne Olcay at line 1 and Polina Kiseleva and Venia Yeung over Fatemi and Daniela Lopez at line 2. Emory won at line 3, with Stephanie Taylor and Christina Watson beating Almy and Alissa Nakamoto.

The teams split first sets in singles, so Wesleyan saw its path, if none of the matches went to a third set. As it turned out, none did. Yeung defeated Lopez 6-0, 6-2 and Kiseleva took out Emma Cartledge by the same score to give Wesleyan a 4-1 lead. But head coach Mike Fried knew better than to count out Emory.

"It was awesome to see Venia and Polina get out to quick starts and take control on their courts," Fried seed. "But when we were up 4-1, I thought this is probably a 5-4 match."

Emory needed all four courts still playing and led in three of them. When Fatemi went up 4-1 in the second set against Almy, it looked as if they found the match they needed to take into a third set, but Almy fought back to 4-4, then held easily. Fatemi went down 15-40, but Almy didn't convert, and during that stretch of the final game Emory's Defne Olcay closed out Kristina Yu 7-5, 6-4 at line 3 to make it 4-4.

For the first time in the Kalamazoo portion of the tournament, all eyes were focused on one court, with teammates urging Almy and Fatemi on. After Almy didn't convert those two match points, Fatemi stepped up to play more aggressively, and she had three game points, but Almay hung in and earned a third match point. A big overhead by Fatemi saved it, but on the fourth her shot floated long, and the celebration began.

"Alexis did an amazing job of dialing back in and playing a little bit more patiently, staying out there a little bit longer to construct points," Fried said. "I don't want to sound corny or pretentious, but I'm just amazed, two freshmen out there, with their composure. She [Fatemi] converts one of those game points and it's five-all and then it's a 50-50 match going forward."

Fried acknowledged the irony of making the program's first semifinal today, and now first final, without four-time NCAA singles champion Eudice Chong, who graduated last year.

"We were joking that as soon as we got rid of that ball and chain Eudice, we could finally get the monkey off our backs and win some matches," said Fried, who also coaches the Wesleyan men's team. "Clearly, we're not here without her. She built our culture, put our program on the map and she's largely responsible for the recruiting class of freshmen who are winning major matches for us. It's impossible to overstate her significance in all this."

Fried said he is getting texts of support regularly from Chong, who is back home in Hong Kong.

"She texts every three seconds," Fried said. "That little roar that went up after match point, there's a very good chance that was coming from suburban Hong Kong."

Wesleyan's opponent in the final will be top seed and defending champion Claremont-Mudd-Scripps, who defeated No. 4 seed Middlebury 5-2 in the 11 a.m. match.

All the drama in that match came in the doubles, with two matches going to tiebreakers. CMS took line 1, with Catherine Allen and Caroline Cox beating Heather Boehm and Ann Martin 8-5. At line 2, Sarah Bahsoun and Nicole Tan took their tiebreaker 8-7(5) over Katherine Hughes and Skylar Schossberger, but Middlebury avoided the sweep, with Christina Puccinelli and Madeline Stow defeating Sydney Lee and Madison Shea 8-7(9).

CMS was able to win four first sets in singles and Allen extended their lead to 3-1 with a quick 6-1, 6-0 win over Boehm at line 1. Middlebury kept it close with Hughes' 6-0, 6-2 victory over Tan at line 2,  but Middlebury couldn't make a dent in the leads at lines 4 and 5, with Lee of CMS taking line 4 over Schossberger 6-3, 6-2 and Cox following with a 6-3, 6-1 win at line 4.

CMS and Wesleyan will meet for the first time this year in Wednesday's final.

Joining the CMS Athenas in the quest for a national title are the top-seeded Claremont-Mudd-Scripps Stags, who defeated No. 4 seed Chicago 5-1 in the first men's semifinal Tuesday afternoon.

The Maroons squeaked out a point in doubles, with Erik Kerrigan and Ninan Kumar beating Julian Gordy and Nikolai Parodi 8-7(6) at line 1, while CMS took line 3 8-7(2) with Jack Katzman and Robert Liu beating Tyler Raclin and Jeremy Yuan.  First to capture a doubles point were CMS's Oscar Burney and Daniel Park, who beat Charlie Pei and Joshua Xu 8-4.

CMS was able to claim four first sets, and were particularly dominant at the top of the lineup, with Katzman beating Yuan 6-2, 6-3 at line 2 and Nikolai Parodi downing Erik Kerrigan 6-1, 6-4 at line 1, giving the Stags a 4-1 lead. Chicago did get a split at line 6, with Max Liu taking Nic Meister to a third set, but Meister ended up getting the fifth point for CMS with a 6-1, 1-6, 6-2 victory. CMS's Gordy was broken serving for the match at line 3, while Liu was a game away at line 4.

The evening's final match ended with a tight victory for Emory over No. 4 seed Middlebury, a match that was still in doubt after three hours of play, with streetlights beginning to blink on around Kalamazoo College's Stowe Stadium.

Emory had grabbed two doubles points, with Adrian Bouchet and Jonathan Jemison getting a late break at line 1 to beat Lubomir Cuba and Peter Martin 8-6 after the teams had split on lines 2 and 3. Noah Farrell and Alex Vanezis of Middlebury beat James Spaulding and Will Wanner at line 2 and Hayden Cassone and Antonio Mora of Emory defeated Nate Eazor and Andre Xiao 8-3 at line 3.

Emory coach John Browning felt his team needed both the points it earned in doubles.

"We knew going in that doubles was really important," Browning said. "From a singles perspective they are really strong, arguably have the best 1-2 punch in the country, so we knew anything short of 2-1 was really going to be an uphill battle for us, and we knew even up 2-1, the singles was going to be difficult."

Middlebury took four first sets in singles, and got its first singles point from Cuba, who beat Jemison 6-4, 6-2 at line 1 to make it 2-2. But just seconds later, Spaulding defeated Stanley Morris 6-0, 7-5 to put Emory back up 3-2, just as Emory's Cassone earned a split at line 2 against Farrell and Emory's Bouchet had earned a split at line 3 against Xiao.

Emory took line 5, with Andrew Esses beating Nate Eazor 6-4, 6-1, meaning that Emory needed just one more point for the victory, while Middlebury had two win all three matches still on court. Farrell had gone up 4-0 on Cassone at line 2, while there was nothing to separate Bouchet and Xiao, who were 3-3 in the third at line 3. At line 4, Emory's Antonio Mora had earned a split with Adam Guo, and when Farrell closed out Cassone 6-3, 4-6, 6-1, it looked as if the match might come down to line 4 on court 6, one of the Stowe Stadium courts without lights.

But at 3-4, Bouchet broke Xiao, hitting an audacious drop shot after a punishing baseline rally on break point, sending his teammates on the sidelines to howling with delight. After Bouchet held for 5-3, Xiao needed to hold to keep Middlebury in the match, and he recovered from 0-30 down to get it to 30-30, only to double fault, giving Bouchet the only match point he would need, with his 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 win sending his team to the final.

"That's typical of him," Browning said of the senior from Virginia. "Not that he loses first sets, but mentally he's never out of a match. For him to go down a set wasn't the best thing, but at the same time, I didn't panic, because he doesn't panic. He's a really good competitor."

Browning did not see the drop shot, as he was on the back court with freshman Mora.

"It doesn't surprise me," Browning said of the drop shot. "I probably would have had a heart attack had I seen him go with that shot selection."

As for playing CMS in the final, Browning expressed some concern about facing the Stags for the first time this year.

"It's funny, it's the one team we haven't played," Browning said. "It seems like we always play at least once every year. It's a brand new team and we haven't really seen them. We know their 1 and 2 players are obviously really strong, but normally we have a lot of information or data prior to the match if we've played somebody. We're going in blind on this one."

Due to weather issues, the women's final has be re-scheduled for noon Wednesday at Stowe Stadium, with the men's final not before 4 p.m. Complete results and live stats can be found at the Kalamazoo College tournament site. Live streaming of the final, with commentary, will be available at NCAA.com.

The winners from today's second round of singles at the NCAA Division I individual championships earn All-America status if they had not previously earned it by being seeded for the event. With all the upsets on the opening day, it's a large group of unseeded players who have advanced to the round of 16: for the women, there are 11: Paola Delgado of VCU, Asuka Kawai of Illinois, Petra Melounova of Hawaii, Felicity Maltby of Texas Tech, Elysia Bolton of UCLA, Cameron Morra of North Carolina, Kelly Chen of Duke, Solymar Colling of San Diego, Sara Daavettila of North Carolina, Katarina Stresnakova of Oklahoma State, and Jada Hart of UCLA.  The top seeds, No. 1 Estela Perez-Somarriba of Miami and Katarina Jokic of Georgia, did advance in straight sets.

The men earning All-America status are Timo Stodder of Tennessee, Hady Habib of Texas A&M, Giovanni Oradini of Mississippi State, Jack Lin of Columbia, Benjamin Sigouin of North Carolina, Bar Botzer of Wake Forest and Sam Riffice of Florida.  Top seed Nuno Borges of Mississippi State beat Andy Andrade of Florida 6-3, 6-4 and No. 2 seed JJ Wolf fought back for a 4-6, 6-2, 7-5 win over Matej Vocel of Oklahoma State.

Complete results from today's first round of doubles and second round of singles, see the USTA National Campus tournament site.

In the first round of women's qualifying for the French Open, 15-year-old wild card Coco Gauff and 17-year-old Whitney Osuigwe, the 2018 and 2017 Roland Garros girls champions, advanced to the second round. Gauff defeated Ankita Raina of India 6-4, 6-4 to become the youngest woman to win a grand slam match since Martina Hingis in 1995.  Osuigwe was down 3-0 in the final set, but came back to beat French wild card Myrtille Georges 2-6, 7-6(3), 7-5.

Other US women to advance to the second round are Bernarda Pera[1], Varvara Lepchenko[19], Allie Kiick and Sachia Vickery[23], who beat Claire Liu 4-6, 6-3 7-6(10).  Danielle Lao, Christina McHale, Francesca Di Lorenzo and Robin Anderson play their first round matches Wednesday.

Only three of 10 US men remain in the French Open men's qualifying after the first round: Marcos Giron, Tennys Sandgren[1] and Bjorn Fratangelo[20].

At the ITF Grade A in Milan, top seed and ITF World No. 1 Clara Tauson was upset 6-2, 6-2 in the first round, by ITF No. 69 Carole Monnet of France. All the American girls, except for qualifier Ellie Coleman, advanced to the second round. The US boys had less success, with No. 7 seed Cannon Kingsley losing in the first round, along with Eliot Spizzirri, Toby Kodat, Dali Blanch and qualifier Ronan Jachuck. Top seed Emilio Nava won his first round match in straight sets.

For more observations from the Milan tournament, see Tennis Underworld.