NCAA Men's Tennis: Cal advances to semis, UCLA bows out in quarters

One day after the Cal women punched their ticket to the Final Four, Cal men's tennis eked one out against Ohio State to advance to the semifinals of the NCAA Tennis Championships in Tulsa, Okla. Meanwhile, UCLA men's tennis lost a closely-contested battle to Oklahoma to bow out in the quarterfinals.

California

There's nothing quite like the drama of the NCAA Tennis Championships, and Sunday afternoon in Tulsa was just another chapter in the great theater that is postseason tennis. Florian Lakat upset No. 1 ranked singles player Mikael Torpegaard in a third-set tiebreaker to push the 13th-seeded Cal men past fifth-seeded Ohio State 4-3 and lift Cal to its first NCAA semifinal appearance since 1991. Cal will play top-seeded Virginia Monday afternoon at 4 p.m. CT/2 p.m. PT for the right to go to the finals.

It's not easy taking doubles from the Bucks, but Cal was able to accomplish the rare feat when the Golden Bear duo of Andre Goransson/Oskar Wikberg took down Ohio State's Martin Joyce/Ralf Steinbach 6-3 at No. 2 and courts one and three split, marking the first time the Buckeyes dropped the doubles point in 18 matches. As Bobby Knight of College Tennis Today points out, Goransson/Wikberg came on strong to claim doubles for Cal:

Singles play started off well enough for Peter Wright's bunch, as Cal took five of the six first sets, inculding a 6-3 edge for Lakat over Torpegaard, the top-ranked men's singles player by the ITA. However, all the early decisions came in the back end of the order -- Filip Bergevi was first to strike in singles for Cal, putting the Golden Bears up 2-0 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Steinbach at No. 4 and capping it off with a beautiful backhand winner. Joyce put Ohio State on the board shortly thereafter at No. 6 with a 6-3, 6-2 triumph over J.T. Nishimura, but Wikberg countered a few minutes later at No. 5 by unseating Herkko Pollanen 6-4, 6-3 and letting the emotions show after he put the Golden Bears up 3-1:

Things weren't as rosy elsewhere, however, as Cal was trailing in third sets on two courts and Goransson was forced into a third set after dropping the second to Chris Diaz, a first team All-Big Ten selection. Big Ten Freshman of the Year Hugo Di Feo cut the Buckeye deficit to 3-2 with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 result over Cal sophomore Billy Griffith, while Torpegaard had fought back from dropping the first set and getting down 2-0 in the second to winning the last six games of the second set and going up 5-3 and on serve in the third against Lakat.

But Lakat didn't bow down to No. 1. He broke serve to stay alive. Then he broke serve to go up 6-5. Then he had triple match point. But Torpegaard isn't the top-ranked collegiate player for no reason, and he fought back to force a third-set tiebreaker, outlasting Lakat in a long rally at 40-40. In the meantime, Goransson faded away in the third set against Diaz, so with the Buckeyes tying it up at 3-3, all eyes were on No. 1 for the decisive tiebreaker.

Lakat took the first three points and Torpegaard took the next three before things settled down. Finally, with Lakat up 7-6 in the tiebreaker, this happened: 

Lakat went 6-3, 2-6, 7-6(8-6) to usurp Torpegaard and win the match for the Golden Bears. Here's a better look at the post-match dogpile.

UCLA

It was another down-to-the-wire finish in the other quarterfinal involving a Pac-12 men's tennis team, but third-seeded UCLA came up on the short end of this 4-3 result to No. 11 Oklahoma, nearly erasing a 3-1 deficit in the defeat.

 

The doubles point was hotly contested and took all three courts into account. The battle came down to a tiebreaker on court two, where Oklahoma's Alex Ghilea/Spencer Papa outlasted Joseph Di Giulio/Karue Sell 7-6(5) to put the Sooners up 1-0 heading into singles.

Sporting a 14-1 record when winning doubles, the Sooners had to be feeling pretty good about things. OU and UCLA split the first sets on the six singles courts, but it was the Sooners who nabbed the first singles point, as Papa cashed in again with a 6-3, 7-5 win over Gage Brymer to put Oklahoma up 2-0. Sell cut the deficit in half for the Bruins over at No. 4 singles by defeating Romanian product Alex Ghila 7-6(3), 6-3, but his celebration was short lived as fellow Romanian Florin Bragusi took out UCLA's Logan Staggs on court five to make it 3-1 Sooners.

UCLA was alright elsewhere, however, as Mackenzie McDonald had rallied back from a first-set defeat to go up 5-2 in the third set at No. 1 singles, while Redlicki had multiple match points on a second-set tiebreaker against Axel Alvarez Llamas, Oklahoma's all-time career wins leader, at No. 2 and Di Giulio was just starting his third set at No. 6 singles. Redlicki made it 3-2 once he closed out Alvarez 7-5, 7-6(5) and McDonald eventually bested Andrew Harris in three sets (3-6, 6-2, 7-5), sending it to No. 6 for the quarterfinal-deciding point.

Hungarian frosh Andre Biro was up a break and had a 3-2 third-set lead over Di Giulio for the Sooners at No. 6 singles by the time it became a 3-3 battle. Unlike Cal's battle earlier in the day against Ohio State, there weren't many fireworks to close this one out, as Biro broke Di Giulio again to close out the match and give Oklahoma the 4-3 triumph with his 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 result. Here's the deciding point.

Oklahoma is on to the semifinals for the third straight season, having lost in the national championship match each of the last two seasons. UCLA misses out on what would have been its fourth semifinal appearance in the last five years.

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