Sunday, May 9, 2021

Defending Men's Champion Texas, Top Seed Florida Advance to D-1 Sweet Sixteen; Liu Wins Second Straight USTA Pro Circuit Title at Charleston $100K

The final ten matches to decide the men's Sweet Sixteen participants concluded today, with one unseeded team, Mississippi State ousting a host, and not any host, but the NCAA Championships host, No. 9 seed University of Central Florida by a 4-2 score

The Knights won a fiercely contested doubles point, with all three matches going to a tiebreaker. But in singles, Mississippi State won five first sets in singles, four of them by 7-5 or 7-6 scores, so UCF knew it would need to force third sets in at least two of those matches. Central Florida got its second point from Kento Yamada at line 4, but Mississippi State closed out three of the matches they led in by taking them in straight sets. Down 3-2, Central Florida needed to force two third sets, which they did, with Trey Hilderbrand at line 5 and Gabriel Decamps at line 1 giving the Knights a path. But Hilderbrand got down a break early in the third set and could not come back, with Carles Hernandez posting a 7-6(6), 3-6, 6-2 victory for Mississippi State's fourth point.

The UCF women advanced to the round of 16 yesterday, but it has to be disappointing for the men to squander their chance to play in the round of 16 on their home courts.

Mississippi State is one of three unseeded men's teams who advanced to the round of 16, the same number of unseeded round of 16 participants the women's regionals produced. This is one more than average, I would say, but given how unusual the season was due to the pandemic, it's quite impressive.

None of the men's seeds were forced to come through in a last-match-on situation, with No. 5 Virginia's 4-2 win over Stanford vying with UCF-Mississippi State as the closest match of the day. Stanford won the doubles point, which gave the Cardinal a route to the victory, but Virginia came out strong in the singles, winning five first sets. The bottom half of the Cavaliers lineup all recorded straight-sets victories to give Virginia a 3-1 lead, but that fourth point was elusive, with Arthur Fery at line 2 and Axel Geller at line 1 forcing the third sets Stanford had to have. At line 3, Tristan Boyer was up 5-1 in the third seed against Chris Rodesch, but the freshman was unable to give Stanford than second point. Instead, it was Fery who earned that, beating Jeffrey von der Schulenburg 4-6, 6-3, 7-5, while it Rodesch ended up with Virginia's fourth point, beating Boyer 2-6, 6-4, 7-6(5). Carl Soderlund of Virginia was up 3-0 in the third over Geller when Rodesch clinched.

Many of the other 4-1 and 4-0 matches were much closer than the score would indicate, with both top seed Florida and No. 7 seed TCU recovering after dropping the doubles point. No. 4 Texas, who earned another trip to Lake Nona, the site of their 2019 national title, defeated unranked Northwestern 4-0.

All told, seven SEC teams advanced to Lake Nona, with three from the Big 12, and two each from the ACC, Big 10 and Pac-12.

Below are the men's round of 16 match-ups, with the times for Monday, May 17th. Live scoring and live streaming should be available here.

Men's Round of 16: 

Florida[1] v Illinois[16] (7 PM)
Mississippi State v Texas A&M[8] (7 PM)
Virginia[5] v Southern Cal[12] (4 PM)
South Carolina[13] v Texas[4] (4 PM)

Tennessee[3] v Arizona (10 AM)
Georgia[11] v North Carolina[6] (10 AM)
TCU[7] v Ohio State (1 PM)
Mississippi[15] v Baylor[2] (1 PM)

The women's round of 16 is scheduled for next Sunday, May 16th, with the times noted below. I should have more details about the streaming options that will be available this coming week; Tennis Channel is not scheduled to begin its coverage until the quarterfinals.

Women's Round of 16:

North Carolina[1] v Cal[16] (7 PM)
Central Florida[9] v Duke (7 PM)
Pepperdine[5] v Michigan (4 PM)
Georgia Tech[13] v UCLA[4] (4PM)

Georgia[3] v Virginia[14] (10 AM)
Southern California v NC State[6] (10 AM)
Florida State[7] v Texas A&M[10] (1 PM)
Ohio State[15] v Texas[2] (1 PM)

Claire Liu at 2020 Nicholasville $100K, photo ©Scott Gerber

Claire Liu continued her impressive form this spring, winning her tenth consecutive match on the USTA Women's Pro Circuit to capture the title at the $100,000 tournament in Charleston South Carolina. Liu, who turns 21 later this month, avoided qualifying this week in Charleston after winning the $60,000 tournament last week in Charlottesville Virginia, then the biggest title of her career.  Today, against top seed and WTA No. 86 Madison Brengle, Liu squandered a 5-2 lead in the second set, but still got the win in straight sets, beating Brengle 6-2, 7-6(6) in two hours and nine minutes. 

The 2017 Wimbledon girls champion will now move to a career high of around 128 in the rankings, with her previous high of 137 coming back in January of 2019.

At the $25,000 USTA Women's Pro Circuit tournament in Naples Florida, 22-year-old Panna Udvardy of Hungary won her first pro circuit title since 2017, beating fellow unseeded finalist Irina Fetecau of Romania 6-0, 6-3 in today's championship match.