May 20, 2013
Urbana, Ill. - UCLA men's tennis has earned a spot in the NCAA Final for the first time since 2005, as the top-ranked Bruins edged No. 5 Ohio State, 4-3 on Monday in a classic semifinal showdown between the two tennis powerhouses at the University of Illinois' Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. UCLA (29-1) now moves on to Tuesday's championship match where it will take on second-seeded Virginia (29-0) at 1:00 p.m. (CST). The Cavaliers beat No. 3 Georgia, 4-1 on Monday.
NOTE: Tuesday's final will be broadcast live on NCAA.com with Harry Cicma and Joe Gentry calling the action. The live feed will be available at the time of the match (2:00 p.m. CST) at this location: NCAA.com Broadcast. Also be sure to follow Illinois' Championship Central Page for the latest information regarding the NCAA Tournament.
With the score tied at 3-3, the outcome of Monday's match rested on the shoulders of Bruin sophomore Marcos Giron, who was in a tight battle with Ohio State's eighth-ranked Peter Kobelt at the No. 2 position. Giron, who is ranked 25th nationally in singles, lost the first set and barely managed to scrape out the second set, winning in a tiebreaker. The third set remained on serve for the first nine games, however with Kobelt serving to stay in the match at 4-5, Giron made his move. Giron fought off two game points and earned his first match point when Kobelt dropped a backhand into the net. Fortunately for the Bruins, Giron wouldn't have to hit another ball, as Kobelt double-faulted on the crucial match point, paving the way for Giron's teammates to storm the court in celebration.
"He kind of gave it to me with that double fault," said an elated Giron after the match. "It was definitely awesome and I couldn't believe it because I think that was the first double-fault he hit all match. The conditions were very tough. No one enjoys playing in very windy conditions but I think it actually suites the UCLA team very well. (OSU) is used to playing indoors and we're used to playing outdoors all year round. It can be very windy at UCLA and so I felt like the wind actually helped us. Especially for me against a big hitter who likes to take big cracks at the ball. I was just trying to play steady and not go for too much. It worked."
Added UCLA head coach Billy Martin, "It seems like this is the way it is every time we play Ohio State. It was so close. Ty Tucker (Ohio State coach) always has his guys ready to play hard. They're a really physical team. They played bad doubles. The wind really threw them off. They regrouped, came out and put that behind them. They were right there to win the match. A couple shots here and there and it could be us out."
The Bruins had one of their best doubles performances of the season against the Buckeyes, dominating at court Nos. 2 and 3 to claim the point. The Bruins moved out to early leads on both courts, eventually striking first when 77th-ranked Adrien Puget and Karue Sell downed 90th-ranked Devin McCarthy and Ille Van Engelen, 8-3. The point came a few minutes later when 42nd-ranked Giron and Dennis Novikov notched a huge upset over 12th-ranked Kobelt and Connor Smith, 8-4 at court No. 1. Court No. 3 was tied 7-7 when play was suspended.
Already with a 1-0 lead after doubles, the Bruins would go ahead 2-0 not long after singles began, as No. 119 Clay Thompson turned in a dominating performance at court No. 5, losing just two games en route to a 6-1, 6-1 victory over 104th-ranked Chris Diaz. It marked Thompson's 14th-straight victory and fourth of the NCAA Tournament.
Ohio State would eventually get on the board when McCarthy overcame Bruin sophomore Dennis Mkrtchian, 6-1, 6-3 at court No. 4. The two players are ranked just two places from one another in the ITA rankings, with McCarthy checking in at No. 73 and Mkrtchian at No. 75.
With UCLA now ahead 2-1, the next two matches would finish within seconds of each other. Sell downed Constantin Christ, 6-4, 7-6(5) to put UCLA up 3-1, however the Buckeyes answered right back at court No. 3, where Smith beat Puget, 6-2, 7-6(5).
Two matches remained at the time of Smith's win and both were in third sets. Ohio State would tied the score at 3-3 at court No. 1, where 12th-ranked Blaz Rola, who dropped the first set, was beginning to pull away from Novikov in the third. Rola took the match 5-7, 6-3, 6-2, turning all the attention to court No. 2, where Giron's match-clinching heroics would eventually take place.
NOTES: UCLA is making its first trip to the title match since winning the NCAA Championship in 2005 ... The Bruins' 29 wins this year are the most since 1986 (UCLA was 29-2 that year) ... UCLA has won 16 NCAA titles in men's tennis ... UCLA leads the nation in NCAA titles with 108 ... The last Bruin team to win an NCAA title was women's volleyball in 2011.
#1 UCLA 4, #5 Ohio State 3
May 20, 2013 at Urbana, IL (Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex)
|1. #42 Giron/Novikov (UCLA) def. #12 Kobelt/Smith (OSU) 8-4|
|2. #77 Puget/Sell (UCLA) def. #90 McCarthy/Ille Van Engelen (OSU) 8-3|
|3. Alex Brigham/Thompson (UCLA) vs. Hunter Callahan/Rola (OSU) 7-7, unfinished|
|1. #12 Blaz Rola (OSU) def. #27 Dennis Novikov (UCLA) 5-7, 6-3, 6-2|
|2. #25 Marcos Giron (UCLA) def. #8 Peter Kobelt (OSU) 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-4|
|3. #71 Connor Smith (OSU) def. #22 Adrien Puget (UCLA) 6-2, 7-6(5)|
|4. #73 Devin McCarthy (OSU) def. #75 Dennis Mkrtchian (UCLA) 6-1, 6-3|
|5. #119 Clay Thompson (UCLA) def. #104 Chris Diaz (OSU) 6-1, 6-1|
|6. Karue Sell (UCLA) def. Constantin Christ (OSU) 6-4, 7-6(5)|
|Ohio State 35-3; National ranking #5|
|UCLA 29-1; National ranking #1|
|Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (5,4,6,3,1,2)|