By Andrew Labovitz
For the second consecutive year, the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships were played at the home of the US Open, the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The event, which features 64 of the country’s best collegians, annually displays some of the best tennis that the collegiate game has to offer, and this year was no exception. And with defending champions Rhyne Williams and Maria Sanchez having turned pro following successful 2010-11 campaigns, two new champions were crowned this year after four days of exciting matches.
The men’s title was won by top-seeded Mitchell Frank of Annandale, Va., a freshman at the University of Virginia, who had already captured the prestigious ITA All-American Championships title in October. After dropping just one set en route to the final, Frank faced his biggest challenge on Sunday, but he rose to the occasion and beat Illinois senior Dennis Nevolo of Gurnee, Ill., 6-3, 2-6, 7-5, in a match that featured thrilling baseline rallies and some dazzling net play by Nevolo. The competitors were knotted at 5-all in the final set when Frank converted on a pivotal break point to take a 6-5 lead, and from there, he needed just five points to serve out the match and win the title.
“It was a tough one today,” Frank said after the match. “The third set really went back and forth, and luckily I was able to convert the break at the end of the set. He’s a great player and it’s great to get a win like that. It’s very special to capture any college tournament, and it’s definitely special to win at the site at the US Open.”
With the win, Frank becomes the first freshman to win the National Indoor Intercollegiate singles title since the University of Miami’s Michael Russell in 1997.
In the women’s final, Marta Lesniak of Poland, a senior at Southern Methodist University, won the school’s first-ever indoor title by virtue of a 7-5, 6-1 victory over University of Florida senior Joanna Mather, who hails from Duluth, Ga. Lesniak trailed Mather, 4-1, in the opening set before taking control of the match, smacking winners from both wings and also connecting for four aces.
Each doubles final went the full three sets, with the winner of the opening set ultimately losing the match in both the men’s and women’s final. Ohio State’s No. 2 seeded team of Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola fought back from a 4-6 first-set loss to defeat the No. 3 seeds from Tulsa, Ashley Watling and Clifford Marsland, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2. In the women’s final, the young unseeded team of Kaitlyn Christian and Sabrina Santamaria of USC upset No. 3 seeds Kristy Frilling and Shannon Mathews of Notre Dame, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
The participants were awarded their trophies by USTA Chairman of the Board and President Jon Vegosen, on hand to watch the finals, along with members of the New York Junior Tennis League, who served as ballpersons during the weekend.