California Defeats Boise State, 4-1, Advances to NCAA Sweet 16

May 11, 2003

Berkeley, Calif. - The #4 seed University of California men's tennis team (20-4) advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time since 2001, with a nerve-wrenching 4-1 victory over Boise State (18-8) in the second round of the NCAA Championships this afternoon, May 11 at the Hellman Tennis Center in Berkeley.

'We kept swinging away today, but Cal was as good as we thought they were,' said Boise State head coach Greg Patton. 'I'm proud of my guys, they kept on fighting back. We had to be on all cylinders to win this match, but we went down swinging.'

The match was a lot closer than the 4-1 final score would indicate as two of the three doubles matches were decided via tiebreaker, and three of the six singles matches went into a third and deciding set.

The Bears got caught napping early on, as Boise State took early leads on all three doubles courts. Cal's No. 2 doubles tandem of Patrick Briaud and John Paul Fruttero fell behind 1-0 and 2-1 to the Boise State pair of Thomas Schoeck and Nils Klemann. But with the help of Fruttero's overpowering serve and some nicely played points on both of their parts, Briaud and Fruttero rallied to claim the 8-5 victory for the first of the day. Meanwhile, on both courts one and three, Cal was ahead by 6-5 margins, and eventually serving for victory at 7-6.

The eighth-ranked duo of Steve Berke and Robert Kowalczyk had their hands full with #38 Marcus Berntson and Guillaume Bouvier on court one. Neither side could take more than a one-game lead until a service break enabled the Cal duo to take a 7-5 advantage. But the Broncos doubles tandem rattle off two successive games to tie the match once again, this time at 7-7, and then again at 8-8 to force a tiebreaker. In extra play, Berntson and Guillaume took control by a 7-3 score and the 9-8 victory to knot things at one match apiece. The decider fell on the shoulders of the players on court three, whom were embroiled in a tiebreaker of their own.

Conor Niland and Balazs Veress fell down 3-0 early to their opponents, Mahmoud Rezk and Matias Silva, but the Boise State duo seemed to get rattled and let Cal back into the match and eventually a 4-3 lead. Like their counterparts on court one, Niland and Veress claimed a 7-5 lead and were serving for the victory up 7-6. But Niland's service was broken and the Broncos' pair tied things at 7-7 and again at 8-8. In the tiebreaker, Cal held an early 2-1 lead, but that was it as Boise State quickly erased the deficit and went on to win 9-8 (9-7) to clinch the all-important doubles point for the Broncos.

Seemingly shocked by the turn of events, the Bears came out firing on all cylinders in singles play. #124 Balazs Veress was the fifth to complete his first set, but the first to complete a singles victory with a tidy 6-2, 6-2 decision over Nils Klemann on court four. In the Western European matchup on court two, Irishman Conor Niland and Frenchman Guillaume Bouvier were engaged in a battle the United Nations would have been proud of. Bouvier opened up 1-0 leads in both sets, but Niland overpowered the Boise State junior for a 6-2, 6-3 victory and the 2-1 lead for the Bears. Moments later on court three, freshman Or Dekel handed the Bears a 3-1 lead with his upset 6-3, 6-2 victory over #106 Thomas Schoeck.

With a 3-1 lead in hand, one victory out of the three remaining matches guaranteed a Cal victory, but in suspenseful fashion all three matches were extended to third sets. On court five, sophomore Matias Silva claimed a 6-4 first set victory over #57 Robert Kowalczyk, but the Cal senior responded with a 7-5 second set of his own. On court one, John Paul Fruttero won the first set, 6-4, but dropped the second to #76 Marcus Berntson by the same score. On court six, sophomore Mik Ledvonova blanked Mahmoud Rezk, 6-0, in the first, but was surprised, 6-4 in the second.

Luckily for the Bears, though, it seemed as though the Boise State players were starting to tire after their hard-fought match with Arizona yesterday. In the third sets of their respective matches, all three Cal players broke open leads in the deciding sets. Fruttero jumped out 2-0, Kowalczyk 4-1 and Ledvonova 4-0. At this point it was just a matter of who wanted to be the won to win it more, and Kowalczyk did the honors with a 6-2 third set victory to win the match for his team.

'It feels good to end my last home match by clinching the victory for my team,' said Kowalczyk. 'I would've loved to have finished it in two sets, but it was more interesting this way.'

Fruttero and Berntson were suspended at 6-4, 4-6, 3-3 while Ledvonova and Rezk were suspended at 6-0, 4-6, 5-2.

'Boise State is a very strong team,' said head coach Peter Wright. 'The doubles point showed how well they fought ... we had opportunities to win those matches, but they took it away from us. We focused our energy on singles play and once it came down to Robbie (Kowalczyk), J.P. (Fruttero) and Mik (Ledvonova) for the victory, I knew one of them would pull through. Those are our guys.'

Cal next travels to Athens, Georgia to take part in the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships Round of 16 at the University of Georgia. Matchup and times are not yet set.

FINAL RESULT#1 California 4, #2 Boise State 1

SinglesNo. 1 - John Paul Fruttero (Cal) vs. #76 Marcus Berntson (Boise), DNFNo. 2 - #36 Conor Niland (Cal) d. Guillaume Bouvier (Boise), 6-2, 6-3No. 3 - Or Dekel (Cal) d. #106 Thomas Schoeck (Boise), 6-3, 6-2No. 4 - #124 Balazs Veress (Cal) d. Nils Klemann (Boise), 6-2, 6-2No. 5 - #57 Robert Kowalczyk (Cal) d. Matias Silva (Boise), 4-6, 7-5, 6-2*No. 6 - Mik Ledvonova (Cal) vs. Mahmoud Rezk (Boise), DNFORDER OF FINISH: 4, 2, 3, 5**Clinched match

Doubles (Boise State wins point)No. 1 - #38 Bernston/Bouvier (Boise) d. #8 Steve Berke/Robert Kowalczyk (Cal), 9-8 (7-3)No. 2 - Patrick Briaud/John Paul Fruttero (Cal) d. Klemann/Schoeck (Boise), 8-5No. 3 - Rezk/Silva (Boise) d. Conor Niland/Balazs Veress (Cal), 9-8 (9-7)*ORDER OF FINISH: 2, 1, 3*
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