Stanford's Bruch and USC's Nelson Capture Pac-10 Tennis Singles Crowns
April 29, 2007
OJAI, Calif. - Stanford's Matt Bruch and USC's Lindsey Nelson left little doubt as to who the true champions were on the final day of the Pac-10 Tennis Championships. Each posted convincing straight-set wins in the men's and women's singles finals at the 107th Ojai Valley Tennis Tournament. The Conference title is the first for Nelson while Bruch made it two in a row and four-straight men's champs for the Cardinal.
The day's first final pitted the second-seeded Nelson against the top seed, Susie Babos of California. Nelson, a junior, dictated play from start to finish. Babos struggled at times on her serve, and Nelson was able to win many of the longer rallies, racing out to a 6-2, 5-0 lead. Babos held serve and then got her first break of the match to pull to 5-2, but Nelson came right back and broke again, raising her fist and shouting towards the fans as Babos' shot sailed wide on match point.
Nelson marched through one of the best fields in the country without dropping a set, and took her game to an even higher level in the semis and the final against two of the nation's top players. Prior to defeating Babos, Nelson took out 12th-ranked Theresa Logar of Stanford, 6-3, 6-3 on Saturday.
'I still don't really know how I did it,' said Nelson. 'I just tried to relax and have fun and let it come to me, not feel like I have to win because when I start thinking like that I lose concentration.'
The final was a rematch of the 2006 NCAA Championship final, in which Babos scored a 6-4, 6-1 victory. A calmer demeanor helped Nelson reverse the outcome today.
'I was so nervous and excited before NCAA Finals I threw up before I went on the court. I was so nervous and so excited that I just froze, I just couldn't play,' Nelson said. 'Her serve was on fire that day and I just could not even get a handle on the ball. Today I was a little bit more relaxed. I've played her a couple more times since then and now we're even.I'll probably see her at NCAAs again.'
Familiarity with the environment and atmosphere of The Ojai also played in Nelson's favor. Nelson's picture as a young teenager is already a permanent resident at the event, taken after she won the Girls 14-Under tournament in 1999.
'I'm really comfortable here. I've been playing this tournament every year since I was 12, so it seems like home,' said Nelson. 'I like the idea of my picture being on that wall forever.'
Stanford's Bruch posed for his second picture with the Pac-10 Championship trophy after dispatching top-seeded senior Alex Slovic of Washington, 6-0, 6-4. Bruch broke Slovic in the first game of the match and then carried the momentum through the rest of the set. He faced only one break point in the second set but held and then broke Slovic in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead.
Bruch, the 2006 Pac-10 Champion and an All-American as a freshman last year, lost much of his sophomore campaign to stress fractures in his right wrist and right foot. He entered the tournament with a 3-9 overall record, and just returned to singles play in early April. Despite his lack of match play, he still felt confident coming back to the site of one of his biggest wins.
'I felt like my game had the potential, it was just a matter of when it started coming together. Whenever you come back from an injury it just takes time, but I thought I had the game to prove it.'
Like Nelson, Bruch never lost a set in the Championship, thanks in large part to a dominant serve that generated numerous free points.
'The ironic part is it's usually my return where I feel most comfortable but for this tournament that definitely was not the case. I was playing tennis under my serve,' Bruch said. 'Everything was so easy to set up. It was a pleasant surprise with my serve, it really carried me through.'
Stanford men have claimed the past four Pac-10 Singles titles now, with Sam Warburg winning in 2004 and '05, and Bruch winning the past two. Warburg called Bruch Saturday night to offer encouragement mixed with a little ribbing. Bruch thinks part of Warburg wanted to keep the repeat all to himself.
'It's back and forth. We joke around about it so I've got to call him up now and let him know how it all went,' said Bruch.
The Cardinal sophomore stole another bit of Warburg's thunder when Bruch teamed with Blake Muller later in the day to win the Pac-10 Doubles Championship in a 6-2, 6-4 match against USC's Kaes Van't Hof and Robert Farah. Warburg also won both the men's singles and doubles events in 2005.Only two other men besides Bruch and Warburg have pulled off the sweep:Stanford's Alex O'Brien in 1992, and USC's Wayne Black in 1994.
The Pac-10 Women's Doubles final turned into a personal showcase for the skills of UCLA's Riza Zalameda and Yasmin Schnack. The two Bruins ran away from Stanford's Anne Yelsey and Lindsay Burdette, 6-1, 6-0 with dazzling net play to take the title, UCLA's first Pac-10 title in singles or doubles since 2001.
'We were in the zone,' Schnack, just a freshman, said afterwards.
Zalameda, a junior, added, 'We have so much talent and it's just a matter of execution and focus, because both of us have worked so hard together. We know our games.'
It's been a year-long learning experience for Schnack playing with the veteran Zalameda.
'She's a great leader. Everything she says is so motivating for me because she's been there, she's done everything. I'm just trying to help her get another win,' said Schnack.
Four Pac-10 Invitational Championships were decided on Sunday as well.USC's Julie Smekodub completed a five-match run to the title without dropping a set, defeating Laila Abdala of Arizona State, 6-1, 6-4 in the day's first match. The day's closest final was in the men's Invitational Championship, where USC's Jason McNaughton defeated Washington's Derek Drabble, 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4.
The Huskies did pull out one of their three finals on the day, when Andy Kuharszky and Drabble defeated Eric McKean and Dave Ryan, 8-5, in the Pac-10 Doubles Invitational finale. The women's half of the Doubles Invitational was won by California's Bojana Bobusic and Claire Ilcinkas, who triumphed 8-3 over ASU's Abdala and Rebecca Rankin.
With the Ojai in the rearview mirror, Pac-10 teams and individuals will look ahead to the NCAA Championships. NCAA team selections will be announced on Tuesday, May 1, and the individual field will be unveiled on Wednesday, May 2. Fans can watch the team bracket announcement live at 11:30 a.m. PT on ESPNews.
NCAA Regionals will be May 11-12 or 12-13, and the NCAA Championships take place in Athens, Georgia from May 17-28.
Finals--Sunday, April 29, 2007
Men's Singles Championship Draw
Matt Bruch (STAN) def. Alex Slovic (WASH), 6-0, 6-4
Women's Singles Championship Draw
Lindsey Nelson (USC) def. Susie Babos (CAL), 6-2, 6-2
Men's Singles Invitational Draw
Jason McNaughton (USC) def. Derek Drabble (WASH), 6-7 (5), 7-6 (4), 6-4
Women's Singles Invitational Draw
Julie Smekodub (USC) def. Laila Abdala (ASU), 6-1, 6-4
Men's Doubles Championship Draw
Bruch/Muller (STAN) def. Farah/Van't Hof (USC), 6-2, 6-4
Women's Doubles Championship Draw
Zalameda/Schnack (UCLA) def. Yelsey/Burdette (STAN), 6-1, 6-0
Men's Doubles Invitational Draw
Drabble/Kuharszky (WASH) def. McKean/Ryan (STAN), 8-5
Women's Doubles Invitational Draw
Bobusic/Ilcinkas (CAL) def. L. Abdala/Rankin (ASU), 8-3
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