Texas dethrones Wake
for Longhorns' first NCAA title
Arthur Kapetanakis | May 20, 2019
Orlando, Fla. – The Texas Longhorns are NCAA men’s champions for the first time in program history after outlasting defending champs Wake Forest, 4-1, in the title match at the USTA National Campus.
In a clinching No. 2 singles match that embodied the larger contest as a whole, junior Yuya Ito dug out of a set-and-a-break hole to defeat the reigning NCAA singles champion, Petros Chrysochos, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. Ito was later named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player.
Wake Forest was in command early, after taking the doubles point—typically the team’s weakness—and building early leads on four singles courts.
But the Longhorns didn’t panic. Instead, they slowly shifted the momentum until they were the ones with a vise grip on the match.
“Before you knew it, we went from not playing very well in singles and being behind on a lot of courts to me looking up and realizing we were a point or two away from winning this whole thing,” said Texas interim head coach Bruce Berque. ADVERTISEMENT “It snuck up on us. These guys competed fantastic.”
As the match wore on and grew more physical, the veteran Longhorns locked in.
“Honestly, I think we just died physically today,” said Wake Forest head coach Tony Bresky, referencing his team’s grueling 4-3 win over North Carolina less than 24 hours prior. “As the match got physical, [Texas] shined. They were prepared and they were tough.”
On Court 1, ITA No. 7 Christian Sigsgaard overturned an early break to defeat Borna Gojo, 6-3, 6-4, and put Texas on the board. On Court 6, senior Rodrigo Banzer won a slew of deuce points to come back from a 5-2 deficit in the opener against Siddhant Banthia and ultimately score a 7-5, 6-4 win to give the Longhorns a 2-1 advantage.
When Texas senior Colin Markes defeated Wake’s Melio Efstathiou at No. 5, the Austin outfit was one win away from the title.
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It soon became a case of when, not if, they would seal the deal.
Another Texas senior, ITA No. 80 Leonardo Telles, held two match/championship points in a second-set tiebreak at No. 3 singles. But the Demon Deacons postponed the inevitable, as Bar Botzer won the breaker, 10-8, to push the No. 3 singles match to a third set.
That shifted the focus to Courts 2 and 6, where Ito and senior Harrison Scott were putting the finishing touches on a pair of three-set comebacks. An hour earlier, Scott trailed Rrezart Congu, 6-2, 3-0, and 40-love. But the senior battled back to take the second in an 8-6 tiebreak, then raced to a 5-0 lead in the decider.
But before he could rise from his bench at the end of the changeover, Ito served out the match on Court 2. The final game was not without its own drama, as Chrysochos turned a 30-0 hole into 30-all through some desperate defending.
Under pressure, Ito stood strong on serve, ending the overall match on the Longhorn’s fourth collective championship point.
“I don’t even know how I did it,” he beamed. “He’s a really good player, I mean obviously he’s won a lot of titles in college and I have a lot of respect for him.”
It was the first time in the 2019 outdoor season that Wake Forest’s Top 2 singles players both lost.
“If we’re going to win the doubles and then you’re going to beat us at No. 1 and No. 2, all the credit in the world to you,” reflected Bresky. “The odds of that happening are very slim. Texas earned the title today.”
For a Texas squad that rostered five seniors—four of which competed in Sunday’s singles lineup—the program’s first title is even sweeter.
“I think it’s a definitely a good way to go out,” Harrison said. “We’ve been doing this for four years and working so hard every day. This season was really special, the team really clicked.
“We wanted it so bad, we kept working every day and I think the five seniors knew this was our last shot and we wanted to have no regrets. I think we can now say we have no regrets.”
The Longhorns victory also bookends the collegiate season at the USTA National Campus. Texas won the first of more than 300 collegiate dual matches at the facility when it defeated Mississippi, 7-0, to open the USTA Collegiate Series. On Sunday, they ended the season by winning the last men’s dual match of the season at the site.