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Sunday, February 14, 2021

North Carolina Claims Men's Division I Team Indoor Title; Williams, Pegula, Brady Through to Australian Open Singles Quarterfinals; Gauff and McNally Reach Doubles Quarterfinals

2021 ITA Men's Team Indoor Champions North Carolina

Last weekend the North Carolina women defended their ITA Women's Team Indoor title, this weekend the North Carolina men joined them, with the second-seeded Tar Heels defeating No. 4 seed Baylor 4-1 Sunday night at the Atkins Tennis Center at the University of Illinois.

North Carolina, who lost to USC in last year's Team Indoor final, got off to a quick start, taking the doubles point with a minimum of fuss with wins at lines 3 and 2. Baylor, whose last appearance in a Team Indoor final was back in 2005, was able to draw even when Charlie Broom blitzed Josh Peck 6-0, 6-3 at line 5, but the Tar Heels ended up taking four first sets in singles, leaving the Bears with an uphill climb.

North Carolina's Benjamin Sigouin, who had struggled in the first two matches of the weekend, got a key point with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Sven Lah at line 5 to make it 2-1. Baylor's Spencer Furman had earned a split at line 6, to give the Bears a glimmer of hope, but they needed another split somewhere. Line 1 looked to be their best hope, with North Carolina's Will Blumberg and Baylor's Adrian Boitan going to a second set tiebreaker, but Blumberg used a couple of deft lobs to open up a 4-1 lead in the tiebreaker and kept his focus to close out the match and give his team a 3-1 lead. Rinky Hijikata of North Carolina had earned a split at 2, and Simon Soendergaard and Furman were at 2-2 in third, but the most direct route to the fourth point was at line 4, where Brian Cernoch and Baylor's Nick Stachowiak were at 5-all in the second set. Cernoch held for a 6-5 lead and Stachowiak, a graduate transfer from Duke, faced the pressure of holding serve to keep the dual match going. He earned a game point at 40-30, but Cernoch, who clinched the 4-2 semifinal win over Virginia Saturday, ripped a forehand winner to bring up a deuce point, and after a brief rally Stachowiak made an error to send a host of Carolina blue jerseys running in his direction.

North Carolina won its first Team Indoor in 2016, six months before the fifth-year seniors Blumberg, Peck and Soendergaard joined the team, but after losing in the 2017 NCAA team final and last year's Team Indoor final, they now have their national championship.

ITA Men’s Division Team Indoor Championships
February 14, 2021
Atkins Tennis Center
University of Illinois

North Carolina[2] 4, v Baylor[4] 1
1. William Blumberg(UNC) d. Adrian Boitan(BAY) 6-3, 7-6(3) 
2. Rinky Hijikata(UNC) v Matias Soto(BAY) 4-6, 7-5, 0-4 DNF
3. Benjamin Sigouin(UNC) d. Sven Lah(BAY) 6-3, 7-5
4. Brian Cernoch(UNC) v Nick Stachowiak(BAY) 7-6(3), 7-5
5. Charlie Broom(BAY) d. Josh Peck(UNC) 6-0, 6-3 
6. Simon Soendergaard(UNC) v Spencer Furman(BAY) 6-2, 3-6, 3-3 DNF

1. Blumberg/Cernoch(UNC) v Lah/Constantin Frantzen(BAY) 5-5 DNF
2. Mac Kiger/Soendergaard(UNC) d. Soto/Broom(BAY) 6-4
3. Sigouin/Hijikata(UNC) d. Stachowiak/Furman(BAY) 6-2

Order of finish: Doubles: 3,2; Singles: 6,3,1,4

Three American women are through to the quarterfinals of the Australian Open with unseeded Jessica Pegula and No. 22 seed Jennifer Brady getting fourth round wins Monday in Melbourne. Pegula has followed up her impressive first round win over Victoria Azarenka with two more victories to get a shot at No. 5 seed Elina Svitolina of Ukraine in the fourth round. Pegula overcame a shaky second set to earn her first Top 10 win 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 and reach her first slam quarterfinal. She will play Brady, who has not lost a set in her four wins, beating No. 28 seed Donna Vekic of Croatia 6-1, 7-5 Monday. Serena Williams beat Aryna Sabalenka in three sets on Sunday; Shelby Rogers plays top seed Ashleigh Barty of Australia later tonight.

Now that the second week is underway in Melbourne, the men's and women's doubles picture is getting clearer, with the quarterfinalists including Coco Gauff and Caty McNally. The American teenagers defeated No. 9 seeds Alexa Guarachi(Alabama) of Chile and Desirae Krawczyk(Arizona State) 7-5, 6-3 in Monday's third round action.  Nicole Melichar, playing this slam with Demi Schuurs of the Netherlands, has also advanced to the quarterfinals. The No. 4 seeds defeated Jelena Ostapenko of Latvia Lyudmyla Kichenok of Ukraine 6-2, 6-4 to set up a quarterfinal meeting with Gauff and McNally. 

The only American remaining in men's doubles is Rajeev Ram(Illinois) and his partner Joe Salisbury(Memphis) of Great Britain. The defending Australian Open doubles champions and No. 5 seeds defeated another all-collegiate team, No. 10 seeds Michael Venus(LSU) of New Zealand and John Peers(Baylor) of Australia, 7-6(4), 7-6(4) Monday.

AO schedule for Americans in Sunday's fourth round:

Serena Williams[10] d. Aryna Sabalenka[7](BLR) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4

AO results for Americans in Monday's fourth round:

Jessica Pegula d. Elina Svitolina[5](UKR) 6-4, 3-6, 6-3

Jennifer Brady[22] d. Donna Vekic[28](CRO) 6-1, 7-5

Ashleigh Barty[1](AUS) d. Shelby Rogers 6-3, 6-4

Daniil Medvedev[4](RUS) d. Mackenzie McDonald 6-4, 6-2, 6-3