UCLA's Marcos Giron captured the 2014 NCAA men's singles title with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Pepperdine's Alex Sarkissian.
© Bill Kallenberg
Danielle Collins of Virginia celebrates after defeating Linda Chi of California, 6-2, 7-5, to win the NCAA women's singles championship.
© Bill Kallenberg
By Chris Starrs, Special to USTA.com
ATHENS, Ga. – At the 2014 NCAA Tennis Championships on Monday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, the men’s singles title joined an already crowded trophy case at UCLA, while the women’s singles and both doubles titles enjoyed historic first-time status in the Deep South.
Men’s singles: Quicker than a SoCal traffic jam
On a bad traffic day, it probably takes longer to drive from UCLA’s campus in Westwood to Pepperdine in Malibu than it took for Bruin Marcos Giron to defeat the Wave’s Alex Sarkissian.
Giron, the No. 2 seed in the singles draw and the only Top 8 player to survive the first round, needed less than 75 minutes to dispatch Sarkissian, taking a 6-4, 6-1 victory to claim the 11th singles championship in UCLA program history.
Although the UCLA and Pepperdine campuses are only about 20 miles apart, Giron said he didn’t think it odd that both he and Sarkissian traveled 2,300 miles across the country to square off against each other.
“Growing up in juniors, we always traveled to play tournaments, and you always seem to play guys from your region, no matter where you are,” said Giron, who finished the season at 30-5. “I just approached it like any other match and tried to focus and really expose his weaknesses.”
Sarkissian (29-11), jumped out to a 2-1 lead in the first set, but Giron captured the next three points to go up 4-3 and then quickly closed out his opponent to earn the first-set victory. In the second set, Giron went up 4-0 and broke his opponent’s final service game to earn the national championship.
The Pepperdine senior reasoned that his opponent appeared to be in better physical condition on Monday.
“Giron played very well today,” said Sarkissian, a senior from Glendale, Calif. “He’s had a great tournament and a great season, and he just was fitter than I was today and was the better player. There was nothing I could do. He’s pretty fit, so he outlasted me today.”
With the victory, Giron joins an august group of UCLA competitors to earn NCAA singles crowns, and his coach Billy Martin – who won the title in 1975 – said that no one is more deserving.
“I couldn’t be happier for him,” Martin said. “He’s the hardest worker I’ve ever had in my 31 years coaching at UCLA, both as an assistant and as the head coach. He’s as physically fit as any kid I’ve seen in college tennis, so I knew this tournament would give him a good opportunity because it really is an endurance contest, especially if you go far in the team event. I felt he had a little more in the tank than Alex did.”
En route to the national crown, Giron defeated Tennessee’s Hunter Reese (6-1, 6-1), Virginia's Ryan Shane (3-6, 6-3, 6-4), Georgia’s Nathan Pasha (7-6, 6-3), Ben McLachlan of California (6-1, 6-3) and Soren Hess-Olesen of Texas (7-5, 6-3).
Women’s singles: Playing big at the end
In women’s singles, No. 32 Danielle Collins fell behind early in both sets to Lynn Chi but rallied to take a 6-2, 7-5 victory, bringing Virginia its first NCAA women’s singles title in school history.
The sophomore, who transferred after last year from Florida, won 11 consecutive points to end the match.
“Once I got down, I got really angry and said, ‘OK, let’s get it together. Let’s step it up,’” said Collins, who went 36-10 this season. “And I just got on a roll. It’s incredible. I still can’t believe it. It’s still really shocking to me, but I’m excited to do it for myself and our program. It’s been a pretty historic year for us. It’s been night and day since I’ve come to Virginia.”
Chi (38-11), the first Cal player to reach the NCAA final since Jana Juricova won it all in 2011, had her ankle taped during the match and came into Monday’s battle with the back of her leg taped up. Afterward, though, she credited Collins for coming through in the big moments.
“She started playing really well at the end; she hit some really nice shots,” Chi said. “I made a few errors. There was one game where I think I hit four balls in the tape or around the tape area, but she made some really nice shots, so I can’t say anything about that.”
Collins, from St. Petersburg, Fla., had a difficult path to the championship match, defeating Northwestern’s Veronica Corning (7-5, 6-2), California’s Anett Schutting (6-4, 6-1), No. 2 Robin Anderson of UCLA (6-1, 6-4), No. 7 Hayley Carter of North Carolina (6-3, 3-6, 7-5) and Duke’s Ester Goldfeld (6-3, 7-6).
She’s not only the first Virginia player to win the national championship but also the first Cavalier woman to make it past the round of 16.
“It’s awesome,” she said. “I got so many texts and messages today from people congratulating me and wishing me luck. I know how much this means for my school and my teammates. I’m just happy I was able to do it.”
Women’s doubles: Third time charming for Bama
In the women’s doubles final, Alabama’s Maya Jansen and Erin Routliffe defeated Georgia’s Lauren Herring and Maho Kowase for the third time this season, prevailing, 6-1, 6-2, to win the Crimson Tide’s first women’s tennis championship.
“We served well; I think our first-serve percentage was awesome,” Routliffe, who with Jansen went 22-4 this year, said. “We put the ball away and made them run, and we returned volley, and we both did a great job of stepping in and taking it early.”
Jansen and Routliffe reached the final by defeating USC’s Giulana Olmos and Zoe Scandalis (6-3, 6-2), Georgia State’s Masa Grgan and Abigal Tere-Apisah (6-3, 6-3), Miami’s Monique Albuquerque and Clementina Riobueno (7-5, 5-7, 6-3) and Duke’s Beatrice Capra and Hanna Mar (6-0, 4-6, 6-2).
Men’s doubles: ‘This is the only way we seem to win’
In the closest possible match, the No. 2-seeded team of Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese from Tennessee edged out the No. 4-seeded team of Peter Kobelt and Kevin Metka, 7-6 (4), 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6), to win the men’s doubles title.
“This is the only way we seem to win,” Reese, a junior from metro Atlanta, said. “I couldn’t have imagined a better match. We had a couple of break points, but it could have gone either way. I feel very fortunate to win.”
Reese and Libietis advanced to the final with victories over Drake’s Robin Goodman and Ravi Patel (6-1, 6-2), UCLA’s Marcos Giron and Mackenzie McDonald (6-1, 6-4), California’s Gregory Bayane and Chase Melton (7-5, 6-3) and Clemson’s Hunter Harrington and Dominique Maden (6-4, 6-2).