UCLA drops nail-biter to Virginia in NCAA men's tennis final


No. 1 vs. No. 2. Sixteen-time NCAA champ vs. NCAA runners-up two years running. All for this:


In a title bout that came down to three-setters on courts 9 and 12, Virginia outlasted UCLA 4-3 to claim its first-ever national championship and finish the season a perfect 30-0. Virginia, which had the lost the last two title round tussles to USC, raced out to the doubles point with 8-2 and 8-5 victories produced by the No. 4-ranked duo of Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger and the 89th-ranked tag team of Justin Shane and Julien Uriguen.

[Related: Men's singles championship bracket from NCAA.com]

The first four singles matches to go in the books were all two-set deals. While the NCAA webcast had its eyes on the No. 1 singles match between former ACC Player of the Year Jarmere Jenkins and current Pac-12 Player of the Year Dennis Novikov, Justin Shane delivered a victory for the Wahoos while Marcos Giron (UCLA's closer in the semifinals) and Dennis Mkrtchian came through for the Bruins. By the time Jenkins defeated Novikov, the Cavaliers were up 3-2 and a match away from the natty. Novikov did not go down easy against Jenkins, fighting off five set points in first and a triple-match point in the second, but third-ranked Jenkins was able to hold strong with a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory over the 27th-ranked (and San Jose native) Novikov.

[Related: Men's doubles championship bracket from NCAA.com]

Backs against the wall, the Bruins got the tying point from Karue Sell, a guy who individually had his back against the wall after dropping the first set 4-6 to Julien Uriguen. Sell found his groove in the second set and turned it up a notch in the third, winning the last two sets 6-3, 6-2 to send it over to No. 3 singles to decide which side would get the hardware.

[Related: Follow @uclatennis]

It was an unlikely championship decider after UCLA's Adrien Puget dominated Mitchell Frank 6-0 in the first set, but as Harry Cicma said on the NCAA webcast, Frank found another level of focus in the second to send it to an all-decisive third. Puget and Frank traded blows early in the set before the Bruin got a huge break to make to lead 5-3 and serve for UCLA's first national championship in eight years. He looked to be in total control, too, as he had match point and made his way to the net to slam the Wahoos into a third straight runner-up finish. As Puget did, however, his racket touched the net, pushing the game to deuce. Frank took charge from there, breaking serve twice to have a chance to serve for the title himself. Puget made one last push down 40-0 in the final game by narrowly fending off two match points, but the junior Frenchman's forehand went wide at 40-30 to give Frank the match 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 and send the Cavaliers into hysteria.

Despite the loss, Billy Martin's gang had a heck of a season, narrowly missing out on its 17th national championship. The Bruins finish the season 29-2, while Novikov, Giron and Puget will stay in Urbana, Ill., to play in the NCAA 64-player singles draw.

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