Sunday, October 11, 2020

USC Sweeps Oracle ITA Masters with Holt, Cayetano Claiming Titles; Nadal Wins 13th French Open, Krawczyk and Guarachi Fall in Women's Doubles Final

Unseeded Eryn Cayetano defeated University of Southern California teammate Angela Kulikov 3-6, 6-2, 12-10 and No. 2 seed Brandon Holt breezed past Cannon Kingsley of Ohio State 6-3, 6-1 to claim the titles Sunday afternoon at the Oracle ITA Masters at the Barnes Tennis Center in San Diego.

Cayetano, a sophomore at USC, started slowly against her friend and doubles partner, as Kulikov, a fifth-year senior, used her variety and experience to win three deciding points in the second half of the opening set to take the lead.

Cayetano didn't seem flustered however, and she adjusted in the second set, using her inside out forehand to dictate more points, while Kulikov was unable to find her first set form, losing her serve three times.

In the match tiebreaker, Cayetano trailed 6-4, but began to hit out, and she hit three winners in four points to take an 8-7 lead. One of Cayetano's advantages was her ability to get a first serve in during the match tiebreaker, making 9 of 11, while Kulikov could get only 5 of 11 first serves in, and double faulted twice in crucial points down the stretch, at 9-all, and again on Cayetano's third match point.

After nearly two hours of competition, which was understandably subdued given their relationship, Cayetano and Kulikov shared a long embrace at the net, and USC had its first women's Masters champion.

For more on the women's final, see this article from the ITA website.

The men's final between No. 3 seed Kingsley and No. 2 seed Holt did not have the competitive dynamic that a match between teammates would have, but Holt so dominated the proceedings that emotions didn't enter into it at all.

Holt, who has opted not to return for a fifth year after his senior season was cut short, made 85% of his first serves, and that's going to be hard to beat no matter who is on the other side of the net. Kingsley, a sophomore at Ohio State, made way more unforced errors than usual, allowing Holt to just wait him out during a rally, and Kingsley wasn't able to find a way to put any pressure at all on Holt's serve.

Holt has now won two ITA Masters titles, with his first coming in 2017. USC men have won four of the six singles titles, with the tournament introduced into the fall collegiate season back in 2015. Cam Norrie and Danielle Collins, both Top 100 professionals now, won the inaugural championships.

The men's final at the French Open was a surprising one, not so much for the result, with Rafael Nadal earning his 13th title and his 100th victory at Roland Garros, but with his sheer dominance. Nadal played flawless tennis for two sets and answered every question Novak Djokovic asked in the third set for a 6-0, 6-2, 7-5 victory.  For more on Nadal's win, see this article from the tournament website.

As was the case in yesterday's men's doubles final, the women's final saw the defending champions repeat, with Kristina Mladenovic of France and Timea Babos of Hungary beating Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State) and Chile's Alexa Guarachi(Alabama) 6-4, 7-5. Krawczyk and Guarachi, who had never been past the round of 16 at a major before this event, held their own against the now four-time slam champions, but found themselves playing from behind most of the match. They fought back three times after falling behind a break in the second set, including with Babos serving for the match at 5-4, but Mladenovic closed it out on her serve.

It's the first time that both the men's and women's doubles champions defending their titles in the same year at Roland Garros.

For more on the doubles final, see this article from the tournament website.