May 17, 2009
College Station, Texas - With UCLA's national title hopes resting solely on his shoulders, sophomore Nick Meister proved he was more than capable of handling the weight, as he rallied from a set down in the deciding singles match to give the seventh-seeded Bruins a 4-3 upset over No. 2 Mississippi at the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships in College Station, Texas on Sunday. With the win, UCLA (21-4) advances to the semifinals and will face No. 3 Ohio State (35-1) on Monday at 1:00 p.m. (CST). The Buckeyes dispatched of Baylor, 4-1 earlier in the day.
"It was just one heck of a great college tennis match," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin. "I didn't think it looked good for us for a while. Meister came back and won the second set in the tiebreaker which was very close. Both guys looked tired, but they were fighting their hearts out. I know my guy was starting to cramp a little bit and I think their player was too. Meister has won five or six last match third sets for us as just a sophomore. I felt fairly confident that he'd want to be there. You want guys who like to be in that position."
With Sunday's dual match tied at 3-3, Meister fended off Mississippi freshman Marcel Thiemann, 3-6, 7-5(5), 6-4 at court No. 6 in a match that had all the drama of the Bruins' national championship win four years ago in College Station. Meister, who had lost the first set and at one point was on the verge of going down 6-5 in the second set, eventually pulled out the set in a tiebreaker. Both players held serve early on in the third, although Meister continued to chip away at Thiemann's service games, owning multiple break points in nearly every game. He finally converted a break in the seventh game to go up 4-3, although Thiemann broke him right back for 4-4. After breaking again for a 5-4 lead, Meister was able to serve out the match, winning that last game at love.
In what turned out to be equally as important as Meister's come-from-behind singles win, UCLA's doubles play was key on Sunday, as the Bruins pulled out the point following a huge upset at court No. 1. After Matt Brooklyn and Holden Seguso earned the Bruins' first win with an 8-6 decision at court No. 6, Haythem Abid and Meister clinched the point by knocking off the nation's top-ranked doubles team of Jonas Berg/Bram ten Berge, 8-5.
"Obviously, it (the doubles point) looks ultimately important, which it does in this tournament. On the first day, everyone that won the doubles point on the men's side won the match. It really helps you, especially when you're playing teams where you're struggling to win three or four. It's a tough task."
Shrugging off the doubles loss, Mississippi came out and won the first set in four of six matches. Despite the fact that Seguso gave UCLA a 2-0 lead with a straight-set win at court No. 4, the Rebels charged back to tie it at 2-2, eventually taking a 3-2 lead when Kalle Norberg defeated Harel Srugo, 6-3, 6-3 at court No. 3. At the time of Srugo's loss, Meister had just fought off two break points to take a 6-5 lead in the second set at court No. 6. The only bright spot for the Bruins was at court No. 5, where Michael Look owned a comfortable 5-0 lead over Otto Sauer. Look eventually won the match 6-3, 4-6, 6-1 to tie it up at 3-3. By that time most of the fans in the stadium had already moved over to court No. 6 in order to get a good seat for the finale between Meister and Thiemann.
"We felt that before the season started, and most of the coaches agreed, that UCLA was the most talented team in the country and they showed that today," said Mississippi head coach Billy Chadwick. "They're very strong from top-to-bottom. It came down to the last match, and we had a couple of looks, and my hats off to all the players out there, it was a great college tennis match."
The win puts the Bruins in the semifinals for the second year in a row. Sunday was full of upsets in College Station, as No. 8 USC beat top-seeded Virginia, 4-0, and No. 12 Texas topped No. 4 Georgia in a rematch of last year's NCAA title match won by the Bulldogs.
Ohio State beat UCLA, 4-0 earlier this season at the ITA National Team Indoors in Chicago.
1. (29) Abid/Meister (UCLA) def. (1) Berg/ten Berge (MISS), 8-5
2. (80) Amit Inbar/Srugo (UCLA) tied with Britton/Tucker Vorster (MISS), 7-7 Susp.
3. Brooklyn/Seguso (UCLA) def. Norberg/Sauer (MISS), 8-6
UCLA Wins Doubles Point - Order of Finish: 3, 1
1. (16) Jonas Berg (MISS) def. (64) Matt Brooklyn (UCLA), 6-3, 6-3
2. (30) Devin Britton (MISS) def. (49) Haythem Abid (UCLA), 6-1, 2-6, 6-4
3. (40) Kalle Norberg (MISS) def. Harel Srugo (UCLA), 6-3, 6-3
4. Holden Seguso (UCLA) def. Bram ten Berge (MISS), 6-2, 6-2
5. (100) Michael Look (UCLA) def. Otto Sauer (MISS), 6-3, 4-6, 6-1
6. (107) Nick Meister (UCLA) def. Marcel Thiemann (MISS), 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4*
* Denotes Clinching Match - Order of Finish: 4, 2, 1, 3, 5, 6