NCAA men's tennis: USC breezes past Duke, UCLA loses nailbiter
USC routed Duke while UCLA lost a heartbreaker to top-seeded Oklahoma in the NCAA Round of 16 at the men's tennis championships Thursday in Waco, Texas. USC continues its quest for the title Saturday at 2 p.m. PT, while the Bruins finish up the 2015 campaign at 17-10.
Making its ninth straight appearance in the NCAA Round of 16, No. 7 USC booked its ninth straight trip to the quarterfinals with ease, sweeping No. 10 Duke 4-0. The Trojans will play the winner of No. 2 Baylor and South Florida Saturday in the Elite 8.
Rarely challenged throughout the evening, USC did not drop a set in any of the matches that counted towards the 4-0 total. The senior international duo of Yannick Hanfmann (Germany) and Roberto Quiroz (Ecuador) won 8-3 at No. 1 doubles, while Eric Johnson and Max de Vroome clinched the doubles point with an 8-5 triumph at No. 2. Here's the clinching doubles point:
Johnson/de Vroome win 8-5 at 2 dubs and the Trojans clinch the dubs pt and take a 1-0 lead over the Duke Blue Devils pic.twitter.com/ozEBJ1w1Yu
— USC Men's Tennis (@USCMensTennis) May 15, 2015
The domination continued in singles play, where Trojans won the first set on all six courts, five of which were no closer than 6-3. The 15th-ranked Hanfmann, who was recently named ITA Southwest Senior Player of the Year, stormed past Peruvian frosh and 13th-ranked Nicolas Alvarez at No. 1 singles (6-1, 6-1) to give the Trojans a 2-0 lead. The scoreboard stayed that way for about 30 minutes before de Vroome did damage to Duke at No. 5 with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over Chris Mengel. Shortly thereafter, 25th-ranked Quiroz finished off the Dukies with a 6-1, 7-5 win over Jason Tahir at No. 2 singles, thus pushing USC through to Saturday.
The defending champs are now three wins away from a 22nd national title in men’s tennis (their 21 titles is the most at the NCAA Division I level). Duke wrapped up its season at 24-7, advancing to the NCAA Round of 16 for the fifth time in the last six years
Waiting through four weather delays and facing a 3-0 deficit, 16th-seeded UCLA nearly completed a major comeback against top-ranked Oklahoma before falling to the Sooners 4-3 in a match that took nearly six hours to complete.
The folks in Waco were hopeful that the morning matches would be able to be played outdoors, blowing the courts dry to get ‘em ready for the morning start.
— Colette Lewis (@zootennis) May 14, 2015
And while the Bruins-Sooners contest did start outdoors, the elements forced a reversal of course. After the fourth weather delay (this one being of the lightning variety), tournament officials decided to move things indoors. By that time, Oklahoma was just one point away from eliminating the Bruins for the second consecutive year at the NCAA tournament, holding a 3-1 lead.
The Sooners took the doubles point thanks to 8-4 victories from Andrew Harris/Alex Ghilea and Spencer Papa/Dane Webb. Papa went right back to work to give the Sooners a 2-0 lead with a two-setter over fellow frosh Austin Rapp (6-3, 6-4), and Ghilea pushed the lead up to 3-0 after taking down Karue Sell (also 6-3, 6-4). UCLA got its first point of the match thanks to the headliner match at No. 1 singles, where third-ranked Mackenzie McDonald usurped top-ranked Axel Alvarez 6-4, 6-4. Then it was time to head indoors.
About 30 minutes after play resumed inside, newly-minted ITA southwest region rookie of the year Martin Redlicki edged Webb in three sets (6-7(3), 6-2, 6-4). Gotta love the emotion here:
— UCLA Men's Tennis (@uclatennis) May 14, 2015
Time for a vet to chip in, now. Senior co-captain Dennis Mkrtchian won a couple of deuce sets (7-6(1), 7-6(3)) in his defeat of Australian sophomore Andrew Harris to force the tennis equivalent of a Game 7.
The match came down to No. 6 singles, where UCLA's Joseph Di Giulio was down a break in the third set against Romanian international Florin Bragusi. Di Giulio hung tough but couldn’t complete the comeback for his side, as Bragusi took No. 6 singles 6-3, 5-7, 6-4 to advance the Sooners to the quarterfinals.
A video posted by Oklahoma Men's Tennis (@ou_mtennis) on
It’s just the second time in 22 years under Billy Martin that the Bruins have not reached the quarterfinals of the NCAAs (they have reached the Round of 16 all 22 years, however). Martin will have to wait until the 2016 season for career coaching victory No. 500 at UCLA, wrapping up his first 22 years with a 499-106 record.