ST. HELENA, Calif. – The NCAA meets USTA experiment was deemed a huge success by all the parties involved as the final day of the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic concluded at the Meadowood Resort on Sunday.
Florida senior Alexandre Lacroix started his morning beating U.S. Open champion and newly turned 18-year-old Jack Sock, 6-3, 6-1 and then mowed his way through the championship tiebreaker round beating Cal’s Nick Andrews, 10-3, and then taking out a pair of Kentucky players -- Alex Musialek, 10-6, in the semifinals and Eric Quigley, 10-7, in the final, to win the 10th annual event which pitted four players from six top collegiate teams and eight top USTA juniors.
USTA Director of Men’s Tennis Jay Berger announced after the match that Lacroix would receive a USTA wild card into a future professional event. Lacroix was also honored with the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player Award named in the memory of former Meadowood member Norma Miner.
"It was a great weekend for me," Lacroix said. "It’s tough in those tiebreakers because not always the best player wins. I just tried to play smart and not make too many mistakes."
After three days of round-robin play, the eight flight winners moved onto the quarterfinal tiebreaker round. Two USTA juniors advanced that far, including Mitchell Frank of Annandale, Va., who was the only junior on the weekend to win all three of his matches.
"You just kind of say a little prayer and hope you play well," said Frank of the tiebreaker shootout in which he lost in the first round, 12-10, to Musialek. "It was a great weekend for me. I got some good experience and liked playing against the collegiate guys."
USTA junior Alexios Halebian of Glendale, Calif., finished second in his flight, but advanced on to the tiebreaker shootout after Texas had to leave early. Halebian fell to Quigley 12-10 in his quarterfinal match. "I missed an easy forehand that would have given me a game-point," Halebian said. "But what can you do? You just try and play it safe and not go for too much."
Tournament Director Doug King said the Napa Valley event has been a huge success in the past and took a chance this year altering the format and inviting the USTA juniors. "We’ll tweak it a little bit if we think we can make it better in the future," King said. "But all indications are it was a really great event. Everyone seemed happy.
"This is the highlight of the year for us. This is one of the premier events for the spectators and a little bit of a different venue then some of the players are used to. They get a little bit of a different flavor at an event like this."
Marcos Giron of Thousand Oaks, Calif., was one of the day’s highlights for the USTA as he beat Florida’s Bob Van Overbeek, 7-5, 7-6 (5). He finished with two wins over the collegiates during the three days and just missed winning his flight.
In another tight match Sunday, USTA 15-year-old Mackenzie McDonald of Piedmont, Calif., fell to USC’s JT Sundling (USC) in a three-set tiebreaker, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4).
Berger said Giron could have easily gone 3-0 as he was up a set and a break in his only loss, 6-4 in the third set to Musialek on Saturday. "This has overall been an incredible event," Berger said. "It’s something if invited back we’ll do every year. The boys have taken it all in. They’ve competed hard and they’ve had a lot of success.
"We knew our olders players would do well and were a little concerned about our younger players, but they’ve all done well."
USTA coach Ricardo Acuna agreed: "I think it’s a good environment to see what the next level is for them. I think they’ve done pretty well and still have a lot to learn. They’re young so this kind of opened their eyes a little bit on what they need to work on."
USTA coach Jose Higueras said he hopes there will be more events featuring both collegiate players and the top juniors.
"We’re hoping to do this a couple of times during the year," Higueras said. "I think it’s a great way for the USTA to deliver the message that we do care about college tennis and that we want to get some pros out of college tennis just like so many other sports do. Most of the kids are going to go to college. The percentage that turn pro is very, very small but at the same time just because you go to college doesn’t mean you can’t turn pro."
Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic Final Results:
Championship Tiebreaker Round
Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Eric Quigley (Kentucky), 10-7
Eric Quigley (Kentucky) def. Dennis Nevolo (Illinois), 10-5
Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Alex Musialek (Kentucky), 10-6
Eric Quigley (Kentucky) def. Alexios Halebian (USTA, Glendale, Calif.), 11-9
Alex Musialek (Kentucky) def. Mitchell Frank (USTA, Annandale, Va.), 12-10
Dennis Nevolo (Illinois) def. Sekou Bangoura (Florida), 12-10
Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Nick Andrews (Cal), 10-3
Sunday’s Final Round-Robin Results
Alex Musialek (Kentucky) def. Vasko Mladenov (Texas), 6-4, 6-2
Marcos Giron (USTA, Thousand Oaks, Calif.) def. Bob Van Overbeek (Florida), 7-5, 7-6 (5)
Jean Andersen (Texas) def. Alexios Halebian (USTA, Glendale, Calif.), 7-6 (3), 6-3*
Jaak Poldma (USC) def. David Holiner (Texas), 7-6 (3), 6-4
Sekou Bangoura (Florida) def. Mitchell Krueger (USTA, Aledo, Texas), 6-3, 4-6, 6-0
Ed Corrie (Texas) def. Bruno Abdelnour (Illinois), 6-4, 7-6 (4)*
Johnny Hamui (Illinois) def. Christoffer Konigsfeldt (Cal), 6-7 (4), 6-3, 7-6 (5)
Eric Quigley (Kentucky) def. Raymond Sarmiento (USC), 6-7 (9), 6-4, 6-4
Anthony Rossi (Kentucky) def. Jonathan Dahan (Cal), 6-1, 7-5
Daniel Nguyen (USC) def. Nassim Slilam (Florida), wo, injury
Nick Andrews (Cal) def. Hunter Harrington (USTA, Spartanburg, S.C.), 6-3, 6-1
Alexandre Lacroix (Florida) def. Jack Sock (USTA, Lincoln, Neb.), 6-3, 6-1
Bjorn Fratangelo (USTA, Pittsburgh, Pa.) def. Carlos Cueto (Cal), wo, injury
Mitchell Frank (USTA, Annandale, Va.) def. Abe Souza (Illinois), 6-2, ret.
Dennis Nevolo (Illinois) def. Maks Gold (Kentucky), 6-1, 6-0
JT Sundling (USC) def. MacKenzie McDonald (USTA, Piedmont, Calif.), 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (4)
Note: Both Andersen and Corrie from Texas won their respective flights but had to leave early. Halebian and Andrews took their spots in the tiebreak tournament.