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Sunday, February 11, 2024

Michigan and Oklahoma State Meet Monday for a First Women's Team Indoor Title; Ohio State Men Beat South Carolina to Stay Unbeaten; Paul Wins ATP Dallas Open; Pro Circuit Update

No matter who wins the ITA Women's Division I Team Indoor title Monday, history will be made, with both No. 4 Michigan and No. 3 Oklahoma State advancing to their first finals after tense victories in Seattle. Michigan defeated North Carolina State 4-1 in the early match, while Oklahoma State closed out Super Bowl Sunday with a 4-2 win over No. 2 seed Stanford. 

NC State had had very little time to digest or celebrate their surprising 4-3 quarterfinals victory over four-time defending champion North Carolina, which ended after 6:30 p.m. local time Saturday. The eighth-seeded Wolfpack had to be back and ready to rebound emotionally and physically less than 18 hours later, and they did show a few signs of that understandable fatigue, with Michigan taking the double point and three first sets in singles. 

But as they showed Saturday, NC State is not a team to concede a loss while they still have a chance, and they rebounded to force Michigan to dig in, even with a 3-0 lead. After Julia Fliegner and Piper Charney posted straight-sets wins to provide that margin, there wasn't an obvious court that would deliver the fourth point. Lily Jones, who had the third first set for Michigan, lost her second set to fellow Michigan native Maddy Zampardo at line 5, although NC State's Sophie Abrams had also lost her set advantage over Gala Mesochoritou at line 4. 

NC State's Amelia Rajecki, who is playing as well as anyone in the country right now, did finally post a point for the Wolfpack with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Kari Miller at line 1, and Saturday's hero Anna Zyryanova looked poised to add a second, with two match points serving at 5-4 in the second set against Jaedan Brown. But some untimely double faults, including on one of the match points, gave Brown new life and she forced a third set at line 3.

Abrams had served for the set at 5-4 in the third set, but Mesochoritou had broken for 5-all and they were in a final set tiebreaker when Jones got a break to go up 4-3 and held for 5-3 against Zampardo. The freshman Zampardo never stopped swinging away, but two forehand errors when she was serving at 30-30 gave Michigan the deceptive 4-1 victory.

Michigan[4] 4, NC State[8] 1

1. Jaedan Brown and Kari Miller(MICH) v Sophie Abrams and Anna Zyryanova(NCST) 6-4
2. Amelia Rajecki and Maddy Zampardo(NCST) d. Lily Jones and Anna Ross(MICH) 6-3
3. Piper Charney and Reese Miller(MICH) d. Gabriella Broadfoot and Abigail Rencheli(NCST) 6-2

Order of finish: 3, 2, 1

1. Amelia Rajecki(NCST) d. Kari Miller(MICH) 7-5, 6-4
2. Julia Fliegner(MICH) d. Abigail Renchli(NCST) 6-2, 6-3
3. Anna Zyryanova(NCST) v Jaedan Brown(MICH) 6-4, 6-7(6), 1-1, unfinished
4. Sophie Abrams(NCST) v Gala Mesochoritou(MICH) 4-6, 6-4, 6-6 (3-4), unfinished
5. Lily Jones(MICH) d. Maddy Zampardo(NCST) 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
6. Piper Charney(MICH) d. Gina Dittman(NCST) 6-2, 6-2

Order of finish: 2, 6, 1, 5

In the nightcap, Oklahoma State took the doubles point from Stanford, showing no indication that their emotional late night 4-3 win over Texas in the quarterfinals had depleted their resources.

The Cowgirls were able to squeeze out the three first sets they needed, with Saturday's hero Safiya Carrington taking a first set tiebreaker over Alexis Blokhina at line 4 to give her team a clear path to the win. Stanford did earn a third set at line 5, with Katherine Hui rebounding from losing the first set to Ayumi Miyamoto 6-0, but ten minutes later Oklahoma State's Anastasiya Komar forced a third set in her match with Angelica Blake at line 1.  Alexandra Yepifanova got Stanford on the board with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Ange Oby Kajuru at line 3, but Kristina Novak put Oklahoma State up 2-1 with a win over Valencia Xu at line 6. Carrington put the Cowgirls on the verge with her victory over Blokhina right before Connie Ma narrowed the gap with a win over Lucia Peyre at line 2. But US Open girls champion Hui found herself down in the third set and Miyamoto put her team in their first final with a 6-0, 2-6, 6-2 victory.

Oklahoma State and Michigan met last month in Stillwater, with the Cowgirls taking a 4-2 decision.

The final, Monday at noon Pacific time, will be available at the Cracked Racquets YouTube channel with Alex Gruskin and Peri Sheinin providing commentary.

1. Anastasiya Komar and Ange Oby Kajuru(Okla ST) d. Angelica Blake and Alexis Blokhina(STAN) 6-0
2. Alexandra Yepifanova and Connie Ma(STAN) d. Ayumi Miyamoto and Raquel Gonzales(Okla ST) 6-2
3. Safiya Carrington and Kristina Novak(Okla ST) d. Valencia Xu and Katherine Hui(STAN) 6-3

Order of finish: 1, 3, 2

1. Angelica Blake(STAN) d. Anastasiya Komar(Okla ST) 6-3, 3-6, 3-2
2. Connie Ma(STAN) d. Lucia Peyre(Okla ST) 6-3, 6-4
3. Alexandra Yepifanova(STAN) d. Ange Oby Kajuru(Okla ST) 6-3, 7-5 
4. Safiya Carrington(Okla ST) d. Alexis Blokhina(STAN) 7-6(3), 6-4
5. Ayumi Miyamoto(Okla ST) d. Katherine Hui(STAN) 6-0, 2-6, 6-2
6. Kristina Novak(Okla ST) d. Valencia Xu(STAN) 6-3, 6-4

Order of finish: 3, 6, 4, 2, 5
Consolation matches:

Auburn 4, Florida 0
Virginia 4, North Carolina[1] 0
Georgia[7] 4, Texas A&M 2
Pepperdine[5] 4, USC 2
Texas[6] 4, Ohio State 3
Cal 4, Washington 1

In a Top Five men's match today in Columbus, Ohio State remained undefeated with a 6-1 win over No. 4 South Carolina. The Buckeyes dropped the doubles point, but collected four quick singles wins to shut the door any possibility of another upset by the Gamecocks. South Carolina had beaten Ohio State last March outdoors in Columbia. 

At the ATP 250 Dallas Open, Tommy Paul collected his second ATP title, with the 26-year-old defeating 2014 NCAA singles champion Marcos Giron 7-6(3), 5-7, 6-3 in just over two-and-a-half hours. Paul, whose first title came in November 2021 at a 250 in Stockholm Sweden, will move ahead of Frances Tiafoe to No. 14 in the ATP rankings. Giron, the 30-year-old former UCLA Bruin, is up to 52 in the ATP rankings, just three spots off his career-high of 49, which came in May of 2022. For more on the final, and the obvious affection and respect that Paul and Giron have for each other, see this article from the ATP.

No. 4 seeds Jordan Thompson and Max Purcell of Australia won the doubles title in Dallas, beating former North Carolina teammates Will Blumberg and Australia's Rinky Hijikata 6-4, 2-6, 10-0 in this evening's final. 

While the Dallas final featured two Americans, players from the United States came up short in the two USTA Pro Circuit singles finals today.

No. 2 seed Dmitry Popko of Kazakhstan need just under two hours to defeat No. 6 seed and fellow 27-year-old Alex Rybakov 7-5, 6-2 in the final of the $15,000 tournament in Sunrise Florida.

At the W35 in Wesley Chapel Florida, No. 6 seed Leonie Kung of Switzerland defeated No. 7 seed Sophie Chang 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in today's final. 

No. 3 seeds Whitney Osuigwe and Hailey Baptiste won the doubles title at the ITF W100 in Mexico, beating Rebecca Marino of Canada and Ann Li 7-5, 6-4 in the final. It's their fifth Pro Circuit title as a team, all coming since 2022.