2023 NCAA Championships: Reasco upsets Brantmeier as individual event begins
Rain was the story on Day 1 of individual singles play at the 2023 NCAA Championships, but thanks to some inspired performances by unseeded players against heavy favorites, it wasn't the top story.
Three of the seven players who competed in Saturday's women's team final in the individual field were beaten in the first round, including No. 8 seed Reese Brantmeier of North Carolina, who was one of two Top-8 seeds to lose in the opening round. She fell 6-2, 2-6, 7-6(4) to University of Georgia sophomore Mell Reasco in a tense, three-setter in the heat of the day before rain came.
In the last edition of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's national rankings, released on May 4, Reasco was ranked No. 63 to Brantmeier's position of No. 8.
"I think I didn't have much pressure. She had all the pressure." Reasco, a native of Quito, Ecuador, said afterwards. "Also, we played UNC three times this year. So I trusted my coaches, what they told me. I just stuck to the plan and just enjoyed the game.
"I think my game was really bothering her because I'm lefty ... I feel like my game was really good for this match, so I just trusted it."
The Georgia Bulldogs, in fact, went 3-0 on Monday's first day of play in women's singles, and Reasco's two Top 10-seeded teammates, No. 3 seed Lea Ma and No. 4 seed Dasha Vidmanova, both were tested in three-set matches.
Ma beat Jessica Alsola of the University of California in her opener, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4, while Czech native Vidmanova came from 6-4, 3-0 down to see off Kit Gulihur of the University of North Florida, 4-6, 7-5, 6-3.
On the men's side, No. 2 seed Ethan Quinn, also of Georgia, had the most dramatic triumph of the day on either side. He defeated Luc Fomba from Texas Christian University, 6-7(7), 6-2, 7-5, after saving a match point serving at deuce in the 10th game of the third set. He was also down 4-2 in the decider.
The highest seed to fall on either side by the time Day 1 finished was Quinn's second-seeded counterpart, Mary Stoiana of Texas A&M Univeristy. The sophomore had lost just one completed singles match dating back to a February defeat at Brantmeier's hands, but she couldn't hold on to a set and a break lead in a 1-6, 7-6(4), 6-4 loss to left-hander Georgia Drummy, a graduate student at Duke University.
In addition, 2021 junior Wimbledon winner Samir Banerjee, now a freshman at Stanford University and the 2023 Pac-12 Rookie of the Year, was a 7-5, 6-4 winner over No. 4 seed Melios Efstathiou of Wake Forest University.
The matches were two of many that were moved indoors after thunderstorms rolled into Orlando in the late afternoon.
The No. 1 seeds in each draw, Fiona Crawley of North Carolina and Eliot Spizzirri of Texas, cruised in their opening rounds. Outside, Crawley was a 6-4, 6-1 winner over Sara Dahlstrom of the University of Florida, while Spizzirri beat Tyler Stice of Auburn University, 6-2, 6-1 in an indoor match.
After the match, Crawley revealed that the match was tougher than the scoreline, in that she had to reset mentally after the high of winning UNC's first-ever women's team national title on Saturday.
"I'm not going to lie, this is really hard for me, to come back after what was the best moment of my life and have to play singles," she said. "It's hard to switch your mindset and start playing for yourself again when we love each other so much, and the reason that we play is for each other. But at the end of the day, I do love tennis and once I go on court, I don't really know how to not try, so that's what gets me through."
Meanwhile, players from men's team champions Virginia went 3-1; the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, Chris Rodesch, was a 7-6(4), 6-2 winner over Peter Makk of the University of Southern California in his opener. However, there was no such luck for junior Inaki Montes, who clinched Virginia's win in the team final; he lost to Murphy Cassone of Arizona State University, 6-3, 7-6(1).
Play continues on Tuesday at the USTA National Campus with the second-round singles matches, as well as the first-round doubles matches.
For more information on the NCAA Championships, including tickets, draws and schedule, visit the USTA's tournament homepage. For all the latest news from the Division I, II and III tournaments, visit USTA.com's news landing page for the event.