May 18, 2009
College Station, Texas - The UCLA men's tennis team dropped a heartbreaker to third-seeded Ohio State in the semifinals of the NCAA Men's Tennis Championships on Monday, falling 4-3 at Texas A&M's George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. It marks the second straight year that the Bruins (21-5) have been beaten in the semifinals. With the win, Ohio State (36-1) moves on to face eighth-seeded USC (24-5) in Tuesday's national championship match
"It was another unbelievably great match and as lucky as we were to win yesterday, just the reverse coin," said UCLA head coach Billy Martin. "That's how these matches are here. There is very little difference between winning and losing. I just felt that if we could have won that one game when we were up 4-3, 15-40, we were looking good. If we pulled off that last game, we have the advantage, because he (Justin Kronauge) looks like he is starting to cramp really badly. You have a chance to play another two to three games. You never know how he is going to hold up. You have to take your hat off to him. He kept his cool, took his time, used his forehand and did a great job with it. What a great last point. You could just see both of those kids just fighting their hearts out."
UCLA afforded itself the luxury of taking a 1-0 lead into singles play for the 11th straight match on Monday, as the Bruins pulled out a close doubles point with victories at court Nos. 1 and 2. The Bruins' Israeli duo of Amit Inbar and Harel Srugo continued to impress at court No. 2, improving to 15-0 on the year with an 8-5 victory over Bryan Koniecko/Shuhei Uzawa. Over at court No. 1, UCLA's Michael Look and Nick Meister actually served for the match up 7-6 against OSU's Matt Allare/Justin Kronauge, but lost the next two games and were suddenly serving to stay in the match down 7-8. The Bruin duo fought off a match point before sending it to a tiebreaker where they lost just one point. Look ended the match on a perfect lob over Kronauge to clinch the point for UCLA. Haythem Abid and Holden Seguso had a match point at court No. 3 when play was suspended.
UCLA was forced to make a change to its singles lineup on Tuesday, as Martin elected to rest Meister after yesterday's marathon win over Mississippi's Marcel Thiemann. That move meant Inbar would fill in at the No. 6 position.
The Buckeyes struck first in singles, evening the match at one apiece after ninth-ranked Steve Moneke dispatched of 49th-ranked Haythem Abid, 6-1, 6-3 at court No. 2. The Bruins, however, would take the next two matches for a 3-1 lead, as Look downed Balazs Novak, 6-4, 6-4 at court No. 6, and Holden Seguso dispatched of Allare, 6-3, 7-6(2) at court No. 4. At 2-2 in the second set tiebreaker Allare hurt his ankle and was forced to take an injury timeout. Once returning to the court, Allare gave it his best effort but could barely move, as Seguso won the next five points to take the match.
Right next door at court No. 6, Inbar was fighting to stay in the second set against Ohio State freshman Chase Buchanan. The Bruin sophomore, who lost the first set 6-3, managed to send the second set to a tiebreaker but couldn't pull it out, as Buchanan won 6-3, 7-6(5) to cut UCLA's lead to 3-2.
At the time of Buchanan's win, two matches remained on court and the Bruins needed just one more win to pull off the upset. Srugo was down 1-0 on serve against Kronauge in the third set at court No. 3, and Bruin junior Matt Brooklyn was down a set and tied 5-5 with Bryan Koniecko at court No. 1. Koniecko would win the second set in a tiebreaker, beating Brooklyn, 6-1, 7-6(4) to tie the match at 3-3.
All attention then turned to court No. 3, where Srugo and Kronauge were on serve early in the third set. Srugo actually had a chance to take a 5-3 lead, however Kronauge saved two break points in the eighth game to tie the match at 4-4. Kronauge then called an injury timeout, as he began cramping. Despite the limited mobility he would go on to break Srugo at love in the very next game for a 5-4 lead. Serving for the match, Kronauge could barely move, hitting serves without bending his knees. Srugo worked his way to break point but Kronauge fought it off, winning the next three points to take the match, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.
"It is obviously a great day for us," said Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker. "It was a grind for us. Anybody who watched the match from start to finish knew that we faced some tough things with two-all in the second-set tiebreaker with (Matt) Allare tearing up his ankle. Kronauge had triple-set points in the first set, wasn't able to capitalize, lost that set and came back. I feel for (UCLA) Coach Martin, because he does an excellent job. He has a talented team - probably the best talent we've faced all year."
1. (52) Look/Nick Meister (UCLA) def. Allare/Kronauge (OSU), 9-8(1)
2. (80) Inbar/Srugo (UCLA) def. Koniecko/Shuhei Uzawa (OSU), 8-5
3. Abid/Seguso (UCLA) led Buchanan/Moneke (OSU), 7-6 Susp.
UCLA Wins Doubles Point - Order of Finish: 2, 1
1. (3) Bryan Koniecko (OSU) def. (64) Matt Brooklyn (UCLA), 6-1, 7-6(4)
2. (9) Steven Moneke (OSU) def. (49) Haythem Abid (UCLA), 6-1, 6-3
3. (25) Justin Kronauge (OSU) def. Harel Srugo (UCLA), 5-7, 6-3, 6-4*
4. Holden Seguso (UCLA) def. (113) Matt Allare (OSU), 6-3, 7-6(2)
5. (100) Michael Look (UCLA) def. (74) Balazs Novak (OSU), 6-4, 6-4
6. Chase Buchanan (OSU) def. Amit Inbar (UCLA), 6-3, 7-6(5)
* Denotes Clinching Match - Order of Finish: 2, 5, 4, 6, 1, 3