'Toughest first match we've played'
Coach Greg Patton | December 2, 2017
Six of the top collegiate players in the country – UCLA sophomore Ena Shibahara, Pepperdine sophomore Ashley Lahey, UNC freshman Alle Sanford, Florida junior Alfredo Perez, USC sophomore Brandon Holt and UCLA senior Martin Redlicki – are currently in France to compete in the 2017 Master’U BNP Paribas International Collegiate Team Competition, the world's most prestigious international college team event.
For the ninth time in the last 10 years, Boise State men’s coach Greg Patton will lead the U.S. team at the Master’U event and is being joined at the helm by Ohio State women’s coach Melissa Schaub, who is returning for a second consecutive year with the squad. Team USA will compete against teams from Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland and Russia and will be going for its seventh straight title and eighth in the last nine years.
Coach Patton is writing a blog for USTA.com throughout the competition and, in his latest entry, talks about Team USA's first-round thriller against France at the 2017 Master'U competition. ADVERTISEMENT Stay tuned for more updates, and follow action from the Master'U event here.
Whew! We got through our first match of Master'U, and, believe me, it was by far the toughest first-round match that Team USA has ever experienced in my nine years of coaching here. It is like being invited to a party, and the bouncer is one big burly and dangerous Frenchman.
Usually the American team cruises through our first-round match, which prepares us for the rigors of the semis and finals. As a matter of fact, we usually play France every year, half the time in the semis and the other half in the championships. Lo and behold, we drew France in the first round, and to be honest, that is a scary first date.
I have good news for you, though! The three men and three women of Team USA survived our encounter with the French with a robust 5-2 win. Not to say that this was easy. France took a 2-1 lead and only needed to take two of the next four matches to secure a victory over us. But our men and women of steel held off the onslaught of incredible play from the French to sweep the remaining four matches to earn a berth in the semifinals on Saturday.
A little synopsis of the match:
Alle Sanford (University of North Carolina) received a baptism to the nerves of team play for the first time in her life. She was a little slow getting out of the starting blocks in the first match of the day, which was the No. 2 women's singles spot. She fell 6-2 in the first set but then became a woman possessed when she ran through her opponent 6-0 in the second. Unfortunately, the French player jumped out to a quick lead in the third set and held off Alle for the 6-2, 0-6, 6-3 win.
France jumps out to a quick 1-0 lead.
At the No. 2 men's singles spot, Martin Redlicki (UCLA) played a serve-and-volleying French demon. Martin didn't lose serve the entire match but was pushed to three sets, with a 6-7, 6-2, 6-2 win.
USA ties up France, 1-1.
Next up is Ashley Lahey (Pepperdine), who ran into a French lawn mower and fell, 6-0, 6-1.
USA 1, France 2.
To be honest, this 2-1 lead by the French is starting to feel a little queasy, with the nerves now creeping into a stomach ache.
Brandon Holt (USC) put on a "tennis clinic," as he defeated France’s No. 1 player by a 6-2, 6-4 score.
Team score: USA 2, France 2.
In the past, our doubles teams have always served as our saviors. Well, today was no exception.
The thriller of the day was a magnificent comeback victory from the women's doubles team of Ashley Lahey and Ena Shibahara (UCLA). They fought off a talented French team, 4-6, 6-2, 10-8.
All we need now is a victory from our men's doubles team or our mixed doubles team.
Our men's doubles team of Brandon Holt and Martin Redlicki quickly dispatched the French by a 6-3, 6-3 score to clinch the team match.
The mixed doubles match was shortened to a pro set, and Alfredo Perez (Florida) and Ena Shibahara cruised to an 8-0 win.
Now is the time for me to say goodnight here in France to get ready for our semifinal match with Germany in only seven hours.
Go Team USA!
Photo: Martin Redlicki and Coach Greg Patton talk strategy during a changeover. Credit: Etienne Jeanneret/www.etiennejeanneret.com