Amber Liu Wins NCAA Singles Championship
May 24, 2003
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Stanford University freshman Amber Liu (La Mesa, CA/Francis Parker HS) won the 2003 NCAA Singles Championship with a 7-6 (5), 6-2 victory over top-seeded Vilmarie Castellvi of Tennessee on Saturday morning at the Ring Tennis Complex at the University of Florida.
'It was really important to win the title today,' the fifth-seeded Liu said. 'I just learned to bounce back. I didn't just do it for me, but for the entire team. It was a tough loss to handle last week when we lost the team title. I haven't been on a team like this one that wanted to win a championship so bad, especially the freshmen. We wanted to help win one for the upperclassmen, because it could possibly be one of the last times that they won the national title. My teammates were a big part of this win. They supported me all year and they really supported me throughout this week as I moved along.'
The first set went back and forth with each player breaking the other in the early going before things were even at three. From that point, Castellvi overcame double faulting twice in the seventh game and broke Liu for the second time on the day to take a 5-3 lead. With Castellvi serving for the set, Liu broke back to make it 5-4. Liu held serve to make it 5-5, and then broke for the third time in the first set when Castellvi double faulted for the sixth time on the day. Serving for the set, Liu trailed 30-0, but battled back to deuce before Castellvi forced a tiebreaker. Even at four in the tiebreaker, Liu won three of the next four points to win 7-5 and take the first set.
'There were definitely some nerves that came into play today,' Liu said. 'I think everybody gets a little nervous when they play in their first NCAA title match. I just had to fight through them the first couple of minutes of the match. I did and I relaxed after that.'
Liu controlled the second set by forcing Castellvi to chase the ball over much of the court. The ITA National Rookie of the Year made it 4-1 when Castellvi committed four unforced errors in the fifth game of the second set. A game later with Liu serving for the match, Castellvi fought back to make it 5-2. However, Liu would break back to capture Stanford's 11th NCAA Singles Championship since the tournament began in 1982 and 13th national singles championship overall.
'I wanted to play aggressive in the match, because I didn't want to let her dictate the pace of the match,' Liu said. 'I came to the net a few times to change it up. I hit the ball hard on the backline. I wanted to try and keep her off her game. She is a great competitor and I knew what she could do if she was able to play her style of game.'
Liu is Stanford's first NCAA Women's Singles Champion since Laura Granville won back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001 Liu is also the first freshman to win the national singles title since Granville accomplished the feat in 2000. Stanford's other NCAA Women's Singles Champions are Alycia Moulton (1982), Linda Gates (1985), Patty Fendick-McCain (1986, 1987), Sandra Birch (1989, 1991), Debbie Graham (1990) and Lilia Osterloh (1997).
Liu finished her first season on The Farm with a 33-10 record, while Castellvi brought her collegiate career to a close with a 140-51 singles mark. The loss snapped the senior's 24-match win streak, which she brought into today's match.
The meeting marked the fourth for between Liu and Castellvi this year, with each player winning twice.
2003 NCAA Women's Singles Championship
At Gainesville, Florida (University of Florida)
#5 Amber Liu (Stanford) d. #1 Vilmarie Castellvi (Tennessee), 7-6 (5), 6-2