NCAA men's quarters
set at USTA National Campus
Arthur Kapetanakis | May 16, 2019
ORLANDO, Fla. – Eight of the Top 10 men’s teams in the country will own the spotlight at the USTA National Campus Collegiate Center on Thursday, as the 2019 NCAA Championships take center stage for the first time at the facility.
Top-seeded Ohio State and No. 2 Texas head the quarterfinal field, with No. 3 Florida carrying the hopes of the Sunshine State as the only local team remaining in the men’s or women’s draws.
The showcase will start with a worthy opener, as No. 4 Wake Forest—the defending NCAA champs—takes on the No. 5 Virginia Cavaliers, winners of four of the last six NCAA team titles. Raising the stakes even further, the matchup pits the ACC tournament winners (Wake) against the ACC regular season champs (UVA).
The intra-conference battle will be the fourth meeting between the programs this year, after a regular-season home-and-home split and a 4-2 Wake Forest victory in the ACC title match.ADVERTISEMENT
“Both teams know each other really well,” said Virginia head coach Andres Pedroso. “We scheduled a home-and-away with Wake on purpose, and I think they did the same thing. They wanted to play against one of the best teams more often, and it just so happens we’re going to play them for the fourth time.”
At the top of the singles lineup, UVA’s Carl Soderlund will take on Wake’s Borna Gojo for the third time on the season. In the April’s ACC final, Gojo, who enters NCAAs as the ITA’s No. 11-ranked singles player, avenged a three-set February loss to his Longhorn rival. Soderlund, the ITA’s No. 3-ranked man, is ready for Round 3 in their personal battle, and Round 4 in the overall “war”—a descriptor used by both UVA player and coach.
“I’m excited to play Gojo again,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of times and had a lot of good matches. I think we both bring the best out in each other, we’re both very competitive. So that’s going to be a great match.
“Throughout the lineup, you’re going to see total war. The players are all hungry to win, so I’m excited to just battle next to my brothers.”
The winner of the 4-5 matchup could face No. 1 Ohio State and JJ Wolf, who recently dropped to No. 2 in the ITA singles rankings (behind Nuno Borges of the already eliminated Mississippi State) after holding the top spot for much of the year.
The Buckeyes will take on No. 9 North Carolina, who upset host South Carolina, the No. 8 seed, in the Super Regional round.
Despite having Wolf, with his 25-1 record at No. 1 singles, Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker expects a fight at the top spot.
“I think JJ has a bright future, but every guy here wants to beat him. The margins are thin and we play no-ad scoring. You can’t play a lazy point at love-love, get yourself down love-15 and you’ll find yourself playing more deuce points than you need to play. It’s very, very tricky with the scoring.
“I guarantee you [UNC No. 1 William] Blumberg’s not scared.”
Tucker stressed the importance of the doubles point, predicting a short stay for his team and a 25-percent chance of victory should they drop the opener.
It will be the first time Ohio State and UNC square off this year, the same scenario Florida and No. 6 Baylor face in the other half of the draw.
The Gators’ 12-0 SEC season was spoiled by a semifinal loss to Tennessee in the conference tournament. But the Gainesville outfit, whose campus is about two hours from Orlando, returned the favor by taking out the Volunteers, 4-2, in the NCAA Super Regionals.
“We do [feel like the home team],” said Florida head coach Byan Shelton. “We thought about it all year—if we got here, we’d be the ones holding up the flag, hopefully, for the state. With that, hopefully our fans from Gainesville will be able to come down, and the fans that we have around the state that love tennis and love the Gators will come out and support us.”
Baylor, the Big 12 tournament champs (thanks to a 4-1 upset of Texas in the final), does not feel like a guest at the USTA National Campus.
“I feel like it’s a neutral site,” said Baylor senior Johannes Schretter. “We all came here, and I don’t think it matters too much. We practiced yesterday and we all like the courts. I don’t think it’s a huge disadvantage for us to play them here.”
The Bears could face Texas again, for a third time in two months, should both Big 12 schools advance. The No. 2-seeded Longhorns will take on No. 10 TCU, who went on the road to upset No. 7 Mississippi State to reach Orlando.
The Big 12 battle is an identical rematch of the pair’s April 6 matchup, which Texas won, 6-1.
“It is the exact same lineups that we played against each other in singles and doubles,” said Texas interim head coach Bruce Berque. “Usually there’s one or two little tweaks to the lineup, somebody moves their singles lineup one or two spots, or somebody moves their doubles, but this time it’s identical. That’s unique.”
TCU took the doubles point in the previous matchup, before dropping all six singles matches. But despite that result, and a senior-laden Texas team, TCU head coach David Roditi is hopeful his underdog squad can turn the tables.
“I feel like the pressure is on them,” he said. “They’re the ones that have four seniors and two juniors starting in their lineup, this is their last chance. We only have two seniors, so most of our team will have more opportunities in the future.
“Definitely feel like they know that this is their chance to win it all, whereas we’re just happy to be here.”
The Texas showdown will feature a battle of Top-10 ITA singles players at the No. 1 spot, with TCU’s Alex Rybakov (No. 5) taking on Texas’ Christian Sigsgaard (No. 7). The Texas junior took the previous match in three sets, calling it one of the standout performances of his season.
Thursday’s winners will move on to Saturday’s semifinal round, with the women’s quarters set for Friday. Both team championships will be played on Sunday, with the NCAA individual singles and doubles tournaments to follow on Monday.
Live coverage of Thursday’s NCAA Championships will be featured on Tennis Channel from 5 p.m ET.
For more, visit the USTA National Campus tournament homepage.