May 24, 2004
Tulsa, Okla. - Fourth-seeded UCLA pulled off one of the biggest victories in program history Monday, upsetting top-seeded and undefeated Illinois, 4-2 in the semifinals of the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships at the University of Tulsa's Michael D. Case Tennis Center. With the victory, UCLA (23-5) snaps Illinois' 64-match winning streak, the longest in NCAA history. The Bruins will face third-seeded Baylor in Tuesday's championship match beginning at 6:00 p.m. (CST). The Bears defeated second-seeded USC, 4-0 in Tuesday's other semifinal.
The Bruins, who have won 15 national titles in men's tennis, advance to the title match for the first time since 1999. Tuesday will mark UCLA's 10th appearance in the finals since the current team format was adopted in 1977. With the win, the Bruins extend their winning streak to 14 in a row and hand the Illini (32-1) their first loss since an NCAA Quarterfinal defeat to USC back in 2002.
Monday's match started in Illinois' favor, as the Illini won an extremely tight battle for the doubles point, taking victories at court Nos. 1 and 2. The Bruins then fell behind 2-0 in the match when, after singles play began, Chris Martin defeated junior Kris Kwinta, 6-2, 6-1 at the No. 5 position.
Bruin junior Chris Lam was able to put UCLA on the board after he posted a 6-4, 6-4 decision over Ryler DeHeart at court No. 3. Following that match Tobias Clemens, the lone senior on the squad, won one of the biggest matches of his career when he upset top-ranked Brian Wilson, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1, evening the dual match at 2-2.
Next to finish was court No. 2, where UCLA's Luben Pampoulov took a 6-0, 2-6, 6-3 victory over Phil Stolt. That decision put the Bruins ahead 3-2 in the match and set the stage for a dramatic finish, as both remaining matches were just heading to a third set. On court No. 4, junior Alberto Francis split sets with Michael Calkins, while over on court No. 6, freshman Philipp Gruendler was in a tough battle with GD Jones. Gruendler, who won the first set in a tiebreaker but managed to win only one game in the second, stepped up his game in the deciding set. He was able to capitalize on a couple of early breaks to defeat Jones, 7-6(1), 1-6, 6-3, sending UCLA to the championship match.
"It was a fantastic match for us," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin. "To beat a team that was undefeated the last two years is a big accomplishment. We have been working and striving to get to this point, and now we are one match from our goal. I cannot be prouder of our team."
Added Gruendler: "I realized it was up to me in the middle of the third set. I was really down in the second set, and I hoped Alberto would clinch the match at number four. When I realized it was coming down to me, it gave me extra power. All my teammates were pushing me, and I just tried to do whatever I could."
UCLA avenges a 4-0 loss to the Illini in the finals of the USTA/ITA National Team Indoors back in February. The Bruins will also get another opportunity to face Baylor, a team that beat them 5-2 at the Los Angeles Tennis Center back on Feb. 26.
UCLA becomes the first No. 4 seed to reach the title match since Georgia did it in 1997.
|1.||(5) Stolt/Wilson (Illinois) def. (7) Francis/Kwinta (UCLA)||8-6|
|2.||Calkins/Martin (Illinois) def. (27) Gruendler/Pampoulov (UCLA)||8-3|
|3.||Clemens/ Chris Surapol (UCLA) vs. DeHeart/Jones (Illinois)||Susp.|
|Illinois Wins Doubles Point|
|1.||(7) Tobias Clemens (UCLA) def. (1) Brian Wilson (Illinois)||6-3, 1-6, 6-1|
|2.||(67) Luben Pampoulov (UCLA) def. (51) Phil Stolt (Illinois)||6-0, 2-6, 6-3|
|3.||(60) Chris Lam (UCLA) def. (121) Ryler DeHeart (Illinois)||6-4, 6-4|
|4.||(63) Alberto Francis (UCLA) vs. Michael Calkins (Illinois)||Susp.|
|5.||(95) Chris Martin (Illinois) def. (88) Kris Kwinta (UCLA)||6-2, 6-1|
|6.||(107) Philipp Gruendler (UCLA) def. GD Jones (Illinois)||7-6(1), 1-6, 6-3*|
|* Denotes Clinching Match - Singles Order of Finish: 5,3,1,2,6|