-- For two days and three rounds of play at the 2010 USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, the men’s draw had experienced a number of wild matches and surprising scores, including a myriad of upsets and three-set matches. So it was assumed that trend would continue in Saturday’s semifinals that featured four players at the top of their games this week. Instead, it was the women’s semifinalists that provided much of the drama at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center’s Indoor Training Center, as both matches went the distance. In the end, however, both the men’s and women’s defending champions will have a chance to repeat, and the men’s draw is left with the first all-American final since 2008.
Tennessee sophomore Rhyne Williams faced Florida senior Alexandre Lacroix in the day’s first semifinal, and the fans in attendance were eager with anticipation of the rematch from last month’s ITA/D’Novo All-American Championships that Lacroix won, 3-6, 7-6 (3), 7-6 (7). Today’s match did not quite live up to those lofty standards, but Williams and Lacroix each battled valiantly, trading shots from the baseline and scrambling all over the court to run down balls. Williams, who is arguably playing the best tennis of his career this week, was ultimately the better player on this day, however, and advanced to the final by a 6-4, 6-4, score.
"Playing indoors helped a lot," Williams said. "My serve was more effective, and the speed of the court helped me a lot. I’ve been playing out of my mind this week," he continued, as evidenced by his first round upset of top-seed Alexander Domijan, "and hopefully I can win one more tomorrow."
In tomorrow’s final, Williams will face USC junior and defending champion Steve Johnson. Johnson has displayed a wicked serve and a blistering forehand all week long, and continued his stellar play on Saturday with a dominant 6-1, 6-4 win over Ohio State freshman Blaz Rola. Rola had only lost one time in his young OSU career – at the All-Americans – and had showed a lot of determination, speed and defense all week. But he was no match for the more experienced player on this day, and Johnson used his serve to earn a number of free points.
"It feels really good to be back in the final," Johnson said. "I’ve put a lot of work in this fall, and I’m glad that it’s paying off."
Johnson and Williams met in the first round of the NCAA Championships in May, and Williams got the best of Johnson then, winning 6-4, 6-3. "He got the best of me then," Johnson said, "but it’s a different surface indoors, and I’m playing well, so we’ll just come back tomorrow and be ready to go."
Sunday’s women’s final will also feature the tournament’s defending champion, as second-seeded Jana Juricova, a junior at Cal-Berkeley, advanced over Texas sophomore Aeriel Ellis. For a time, it looked as though Ellis would emerge victorious, as she steamrolled the defending champion 6-2 in the first set. However, Juricova settled down in the second set, and the two players traded groundstrokes consistently before Juricova earned the much-needed break to take the second set 7-5. In the third, Juricova’s experience began to take hold, and despite a number of winners off Ellis’ racquet, Juricova earned a key break midway through the set and was able to serve it out and win, 2-6, 7-5, 6-4.
To earn her second straight Intercollegiate Indoor title, Juricova will have to get past Pac-10 rival Maria Sanchez, a USC senior. Sanchez had been playing strong tennis all week, dropping just one set in the tournament’s first round en route to the semifinals. She continued her strong play in today’s first set against Florida sophomore Allie Will, taking it 7-5 behind an overpowering serve that has been among the best this week. Will, who needed three sets to advance in each of the tournament’s first two rounds, once again fought back, showing remarkable resiliency and taking the second set, 6-4. However, the many long points finally began to take their toll, and Sanchez broke early in the third set and never looked back en route to a 7-5, 4-6, 6-0 victory.
The day was not a total disappointment for Will, however, as she partnered with teammate Sophie Oyen to reach the women’s doubles final, upsetting the fourth-seeded Alabama duo Alexa Guarachi and Courtney McLane 6-3, 7-6 (0). The Gators will face the third-seeded Clemson team of Josipa Bek and Keri Wong. The Tigers defeated the Cal team of Juricova and Mari Andersson by almost the exact same score as Florida, winning 6-3, 7-6 (6).
The men’s doubles final will pit Ole Miss vs. Texas A&M. The Rebels, comprised of German twins Chris and Marcel Thiemann, defeated the Texas team of Jean Andersen and Ed Corrie by yet another 6-3, 7-6 (3) score, while the Texas A&M team of Jeff Dadamo and 2008 USTA Boys’ 18s National Champion Austin Krajicek took down Georgia Tech’s Kevin King and Juan Spir, 6-4, 6-7 (8), 7-6 (6), in a highly entertaining match.
Following their respective doubles matches, Krajicek and Guarachi were awarded the 2010 USTA/ITA Sportsmanship Awards, chosen by the tournament committee and officials for displaying outstanding sportsmanship and exemplifying the spirit of college tennis during the course of the tournament.
Sunday’s finals will start at 10 a.m. ET. For live scoring and complete men’s and women’s singles and doubles draws, click here
2010 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
Rhyne Williams (SO, Tennessee) def. Alexandre Lacroix (SR, Florida) 6-4, 6-4
No. 7 Steve Johnson (JR, USC) def. Blaz Rola (FR, Ohio State) 6-1, 6-4
Men’s Doubles Semifinals:
Austin Krajicek and Jeff Dadamo (Texas A&M) def. Kevin King and Juan Spir (Georgia Tech) 6-4, 6-7(8), 7-6(6)
No. 4 Chris Thiemann and Marcel Thiemann (Ole Miss) def. Jean Andersen and Ed Corrie (Texas) 6-3, 7-6(3)
No. 7 Maria Sanchez (SR, USC) def. No. 6 Allie Will (SO, Florida) 7-6, 4-6, 6-0
No. 2 Jana Juricova (JR, Cal-Berkeley) def. Aeriel Ellis (SO, Texas) 2-6, 7-5, 6-4
Women’s Doubles Semifinals:
Sophie Oyen and Allie Will (Florida) def. No. 4 Alexa Guarachi and Courtney McLane (Alabama) 6-3, 7-6(0)
No. 3 Josipa Bek and Keri Wong (Clemson) def. No. 2 Mari Andersson and Jana Juricova (Cal-Berkeley) 6-3, 7-6(6)