Six of the top American collegians were selected to represent the United States in the fifth annual Master’U BNP Paribas, an international collegiate competition held Dec. 9-12 in Rouen, France. The event featured eight teams composed of college and university players from around the world. The U.S., which defeated France to win the 2009 title, competed for the third consecutive year against a talented field that included teams from Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Switzerland.
The 2010 U.S. team was coached by Greg Patton, head coach of the Boise State University men’s tennis team, who helped lead the U.S. to the 2009 title, and Mark Guilbeau, head women’s tennis coach at the University of Virginia. Coach Patton and Coach Guilbeau co-wrote a blog for USTA.com during the team's stay in France.
"It is better to have loved and lost than not to have loved at all."
That quote sums up our championship match on Sunday. Although our U.S. collegiate team lost in the championship round to France, we loved every second of this magical international team tournament. Our incredible team finally hit a road bump when the French defeated us by a score of 5-1. But it was a magnificient journey for our team.
This will be very brief. We just got back to the hotel (8:30 p.m. here), and we must have the team to the tournament dinner at 9 p.m., and then we will be picked up to go to the Paris airport at 4 a.m. Ahh, the glamorous life of collegiate tennis stars.
Our American players all played their hearts out today, but the home crowd enthusiasm, the phenomenal play by the French and their ability to dominate on the red clay was a little too much for us.
Big Kudos to Allie Will, who won her singles match today. She is such an amazing, focused and intelligent competitor, and she loves the battle. Our two women's singles players started off the title match for us at the same time. Allie Will (University of Florida) jumped out to a fast lead against a very steady baseliner, but the second that her French opponent (Manon Garcia) hit a short ball, it was "goodnight Irene," for Allie's laser shots would become winners. Allie won, 6-1, 6-2.
Maria Sanchez (USC) fought valiantly, but her opponent (Natlie Piquion, who was a top WTA player and hailed from Rouen where we played) used her dominating and consistent backhand to take Maria, 6-1, 6-4. Maria was down 1-4 in the second set and brought her match back to 3-4 and had several break points to tie up the match at 4-4. We were elated with Maria's determination and fight. For although she was fighting an uphill battle, she maintained her signature composure and mustered a tenacity for each and every point.
Next up was Reid Carleton, who fell to Jules Marie, a 6-foot-7, gigantic-hitting French player whose serves were sonic booms and forehands weres an arsenal of fiery shots. The points were rockets that were launched across the net. Unfortunately for our collegian (from Duke), the second Reid's shot landed short, the Frenchman attacked the ball with vengeance that usually were winners.
Our next player up was our veteran of the team, Austin Krajicek (Texas A & M), whom we felt played outstanding. Austin moved the ball from side to side with the consistency of a Bekins moving van transversing both coasts of the USA, and when it looked like he had wounded his French opponent and attacked the net, his opponent (Elie Rousset) would paint the lines with the flourish of the French painter, Monet. Time after time the brush of his stokes always found a direct hit on the lines. Elie took the match, 6-2, 6-4.
Our U.S. team was now down 1-3 with our backs against the wall, and we realized that once again we needed to pull off a magical comeback that we accomplished last year (when we swept all three doubles to capture the title). But history wouldn't repeat itself, as the women's French doubles team defeated our American gals of Kristy Frilling and Allie Will by a 6-4, 7-5 score. Our men's doubles duo of Sekou Bangoura and Austin Krajicek played an exhibition match with abbreviated scoring and fell, 4-2, 5-4.
I want to send out a great thank you to the French tournament officials, the French fans, whose enthusiasm was infectious, the USTA (especially Erica Perkins for her assistance and support) and Intercollegiate Tennis Association staffs, and especially to Coach Mark Guilbeau (what a fantastic coach for the USA) for making this a great and growing experience. I know that our players will return home with not only treasured new friendships but also with the experience of being able to play against international competition on an unfamiliar red clay. (Most of our team had never played outside the United States, so it was an intoxicating taste of motivation for them). It is an experience and a tennis education that money couldn't buy.
I do know that all the players and the coaching staff are itching to return next year to bring back the title (and also to see all our new friends that we met this year).
Thanks to all who read through our blogs over the week.
Today the USA Master'U team faced a very strong French team and unfortunately came away on the short side of a 5-1 team score in the tournament final. The USA Team finishes with the silver medal.
Ouch! It hurts right now, but this group has everything to be proud of. Another incredible effort today; a complete commitment to this tournament throughout the entire trip; an unmatched competitive spirit; lots of fun, laughs, new friends and fans; and memories to bring back with us for a lifetime.
Congrats to France. Both teams played extremely well and hard - France was just a bit better on the day.
Another great, great result from Allie Will - a 6-1, 6-2 win over a strong and somewhat similar player to herself. Three great singles wins for Allie on the weekend...and definitely a future on the red clay after a great college career.
Maria Sanchez, Reid Carleton and Austin Krajicek each battled extremely hard in their singles matches and gave it everything they had. Unfortunately those matches did not go USA's way. Maria battleda top 200 WTA French player, and despite losing in two sets, she changed her tactics, stayed very tough mentally and emotionally, and almost pulled out a second set comeback before falling 6-2, 6-4.
Both men's matches were a lot about serving... and each of our guysdid very well in that category. France just came up with a little more... and definitely a few great shots cleaning the lines after being forced into extremely tough situations. It was high level tennis and both Reid and Austin represented themselves and this team in a great way!
France kept the momentum and took both the women's and men's doubles, with the women's doubles clinching the fourth and deciding point for their side.
Coach Patton and Coach Guilbeau are so proud of this group, and feel very fortunate to have shared this trip and this competitive experience with them. We are all honored to have represented the U.S. and U.S. college tennis at
the Master'U Tournament. Clearly this group deserved to win as much of more than any. And certainly more great wins are ahead in this fantastic tournament for the United States.
Thank you to the Master'U Tournament and staff, and especially to the USTA for making this opportunity possible for all of us.
Coaches Patton, Guilbeau and USA Team