Schedule a training visit to the prestigious Junior Tennis Champions Center in College Park, MD by clicking on the banner above

Monday, May 20, 2024

Yepifanova, Masjuan and Moroni Take Out Top Four Seeds as NCAA Division I Singles Championships Begin; ITF J500 Trofeo Bonfiglio in Milan Has Begun for 20 Americans

©Colette Lewis 2024--
Stillwater Oklahoma--

Two days ago in the semifinals of the NCAA Division I Team Championships, Wake Forest senior Filippo Moroni was thoroughly thumped by Eliot Spizzirri, with the University of Texas fifth-year senior cruising to a 6-0, 6-3 victory at No. 1 singles.

In a late afternoon match at the Greenwood Tennis Center, played in both heat and wind, Moroni showed just how unpredictable the sport can be, ending the illustrious career of the No. 2 seed 6-1, 7-5.

Moroni wasn't exactly eager for the rematch when he first saw the draw.

"My first reaction when I saw the draw, probably I wasn't the happiest guy on earth," said the 23-year-old from Italy. "But at the same time, I was thinking it can't be worse than what happened Saturday. I didn't have too high expectations, I was like I'll just go in and play, probably play more my game....I just wanted to go in, have fun, this could be my last college match ever as a senior, and let's just see how it goes."

Spizzirri started poorly, which Moroni attributed to the Longhorns loss to TCU Sunday evening in the team championship match.

"I think obviously, the fact that he lost yesterday probably played a big factor in his mind," Moroni said. "At the same time, I thought he would be ready, because he came back to college to win NCAAs and he loses, so to win this tournament, to get the wild card for the US Open, he might be tired, but he's going to put up a fight."

Spizzirri, who has a reputation for valiant comebacks, including one on these courts in the quarterfinals against Tennessee, looked as if he might pull off another one when he took a 5-2 lead in the second set, but Moroni took that opportunity to play with even less pressure.

"I just said to myself, at least win the game to 5-3, so worse case I an start serving in the third set," Moroni said. "He gave me a little chance, I just played solid and from there I gained a little bit of confidence, especially when we switched sides. Two games against the wind, I think it was a little easier, less risk to take."

Moroni didn't indulge in as much as a fist pump when he won his fifth straight game for the victory, earning a second round meeting with Tennessee's Shunsuke Mitsui, who beat Edward Winter of Pepperdine 7-6(7), 6-3.

Another top four seed was eliminated, this one in the top half, with Pablo Masjuan of UC-Santa Barbara defeated No. 4 seed Toby Samuel of South Carolina 7-6(1), 6-7(5), 6-3.

Masjuan said he didn't have any idea how Samuel played, so some advance intel and the first two sets were part of his education.

"I got a little scouting report from my coach," said the 21-year-old senior from Madrid Spain. "I knew he was very complete, both his forehand and backhand are really good and his serve is tremendous. In the beginning I was not being really patient, I was trying to win the point in a short amount of shots. By the end, I was being way more patient, working the point."

Masjuan has set a goal of All-America status, which he can achieve with a win Tuesday over Sebastian Dominiko of Notre Dame. That would put him in the same company as former Gaucho Nicolas Moreno de Alboran, who recently claimed the USTA's Roland Garros main draw wild card.

"He's such a reference for me, coming from the same place as me," Masjuan said of the ATP No. 140, who qualified for the ATP 250 in Geneva this week. "He practiced a lot where I'm from in Madrid. But we never got to play, he left the year before I came."

The only top 4 seed in the women's draw losing in the first round Monday was No. 4 Kari Miller of Michigan, who fell to Alexandra Yepifanova of Stanford 6-1, 6-2.

Yepifanova and Miller had not played previously in college, but Yepifanova remembered two matches from their junior years, one a long tough match on red clay and another a first round match at the USTA 18s Nationals in San Diego, which Miller won 6-2, 6-1.

"I got cooked, Kari absolutely destroyed me," Yepifanova said. "That was a quick and easy match."

Although the score of their match today looked as if Yepifanova had turned the tables on Miller from that match at Barnes Tennis Center, the 21-year-old junior from Florida pushed back against that characterization.

"It was 1 and 2, but we had so many deuce points that I lost track," Yepifanova said. "I think in the second set, four of the five games was a deuce point, match point was a deuce point, it was definitely a tough one. With the windy conditions, I don't think I played my game, I think I mostly adjusted to her game. I had a plan going into those deuce points and most went my way."

Yepifanova will face Georgia's Alexandra Vecic, who defeated Katja Wiersholm of Cal 6-4, 3-6, 6-3.

Top seed Mary Stoiana of Texas A&M suffered no championship hangover, dispatching Hannah Viller Moeller of Cal 6-2, 6-0 in one of the last matches of the 12-hour day of singles.

Two 9-16 seeds lost in the women's draw, with Sofia Cabezas of Tennessee falling to Annabelle Xu of Virginia 6-1, 6-4 and Savannah Broadus of Pepperdine dropping a 7-5, 6-4 decison to Miyuka Kimoto of Syracuse.

Men's top seed Johannus Monday of Tennessee withdrew from singles due to stress strain, but is expected to compete in doubles with Angel Diaz. They are 5-8 seeds.

Two 9-16 seeds also exited in the men's first round, with Matisse Bobichon of VCU defeating Andres Martin of Georgia Tech 6-4, 4-6, 6-2 and Ohio State's Jack Anthrop beating Radu Papoe of Cornell 6-2, 4-6, 6-4.

Second round singles matches will begin at 9:30 Tuesday, with the first round of doubles in the afternoon and evening.

Live scoring and times for matches are available at iOnCourt

Cracked Racquets will have coverage on ESPN+, with individual court streams available here.

The ITF J500 Trofeo Bonfiglio began today in Milan Italy with 20 American juniors competing for the prestigious title on red clay. The ITF junior site's preview is here.

Below is a quick summary of today's first round action, with those without comment scheduled to play Tuesday.  Nicolai Budkov Kjaer of Norway is the top boys seed, with Emerson Jones of Australia the No. 1 seed in the girls draw.

Kaylan Bigun[6] won 
Cooper Woestendick[11] (lost rd 1)
Jack Kennedy
Ian Mayew
Maxwell Exsted (lost rd 1)
Matthew Forbes (Lost rd 1)
Jagger Leach[14]
Noah Johnston[Q]
Ronit Karki[Q]

Tyra Grant[2] won
Kaitlyn Rolls[9] (lost rd 1)
Iva Jovic[14]
Thea Frodin won
Shannon Lam (lost rd 1)
Kristina Penickova[16]
Kate Fakih won
Christasha McNeil (lost rd 1)
Monika Ekstrand (lost rd 1)
Mia Slama(lost rd 1)
Claire An won


Colin said...

It's my first year closely following these championships, so apologies for asking a question that's surely been addressed before: why does the NCAA not schedule an off day between the team championship match and the singles championship?

Moot point now with the change in calendar for this event next year, but it was tough watching Jonah Braswell play so well last night against Cassone, only to physically run out of gas late in the third set.

Colette Lewis said...

There was a day off last year and it was great, but that was related to the combined event with D-III in Lake Nona. The complaint that led to the separation of team and individuals is that the tournament is too long, so I don't think inserting an off day was ever really considered long-term and as you said, it's now moot, at least for the two-year trial.

Homie said...

Hi Colette

I would like to know if cracked racquets intentionally hid the fact that the team matches could be seen individually on Web.Track.Tennis or is it only the Individual tournament matches could be seen on that sight. It would be awful if that happened. Nobody can watch a college tennis match the way ESPN+ presented it. No disrespect to Alex, he always does the best he can and is a great help in promoting college tennis.

Colette Lewis said...

They did not. As rights holders CR could do that, but as they are entirely about growing and promoting the college game, they are generously opening up those streams. Unfortunately, getting the NCAA website updated is a cumbersome process, not in CR's control.

Colin said...

Worth noting that Gruskin did in fact tweet a link to the web streams, and made clear a number of times they were available. Certainly didn't hide the fact they were out there.