After four days of highly competitive play at the 2010 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, it looked as though the event could have repeat champions in both the men’s and women’s draws. Without question, USC junior Steve Johnson and Cal-Berkeley junior Jana Juricova were the favorites entering the day. But this weekend’s event has delivered surprising results beginning with the opening round, and by the time Sunday was over, two new champions–Tennessee’s Rhyne Williams and USC’s Maria Sanchez–were crowned, fittingly after a pair of three-set matches.
The men’s final pit defending champion Johnson against Williams in a rematch from the first round of the 2010 NCAA Championships, won by Williams in straight sets. Going into the match, Williams was fearful of the effects of Johnson’s powerful serve on the fast indoor courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center’s Indoor Training Facility, and in the first set, it looked like Williams had good reason to worry. Johnson stormed out of the gates, pounding his serve and regularly holding at love en route to taking the set 6-1.
“I was quite nervous at the start of the match and came out flat,” Williams said, “and I was definitely lucky to get back into it.”
He got back into it in a big way, becoming the first player this week to break Johnson’s serve, and using that momentum to capture the second set by the same 6-1 score. However, Johnson earned a service break in the second game of the third set, and looked to take a commanding 3-0 lead, when a net cord helped Williams break right back.
“That was the key point,” Johnson said afterwards. “I really thought if I could consolidate that break, I’d be able to hold on and win, but he got the net cord and took the momentum back. I give him a lot of credit.”
Williams broke Johnson one more time later in the third, and was able to serve out the match, winning 1-6, 6-1, 6-4.
“I returned really well in the latter two sets,” Williams said. “I was able to get a read on his serve, which is so tough, and hit some great shots to win.”
In the women’s final, Juricova looked to repeat as champion against Pac-10 rival Sanchez, whom Juricova beat three times during the 2009-10 season, including in the second round of the NCAA Team Championships. Sanchez had other ideas, and reached the final behind one of the more powerful serves seen at the event this week. Knowing a good start would be key, Sanchez came out firing on all cylinders, breaking Juricova early and rolling to a 6-2 first set win.
Juricova, not about to let her title slip away that easily, roared back in the second set, hitting her lines and forcing Sanchez into a number of second set errors en route to winning the set 6-3. Despite the second-set letdown, Sanchez snatched momentum right back, breaking Juricova to open the third set in what would ultimately be the only break of the set. Juricova had three break points down 4-5, but Sanchez put together a pair of wonderful down-the-line backhands and was able to hold on, taking the title, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4.
“Jana’s a great player and has beaten me quite a few times, so I’m really happy to get this win today,” Sanchez said. “It’s such a great feeling being the Indoor Champion!”
With the wins, Williams and Sanchez become the first pair of Americans to win the National Indoor Intercollegiate titles since Ryler DeHeart (Illinois) and Megan Bradley (Miami) won the titles in 2004. The participants were awarded their trophies by former New York mayor the Honorable David Dinkins.
In the women’s doubles final, The University of Florida team of Allie Will & Sophie Oyen defeated the Clemson Tiger team of Josipa Bek & Keri Wong, 5-7, 6-3, 6-3. The two teams met previously in the first round at the ITA/Riviera All-American Championships last month, and Bek & Wong won that match 8-6 in an eight-game pro set. But in the best-of-three set format today, the Gators were able to settle into the match after losing the first set, and used well-placed serves and precise volleys to win their first national title together.
Impressive volleying was also on display in the men’s doubles final, where Texas A&M’s left-handed tandem of Austin Krajicek & Jeff Dadamo defeated University of Mississippi junior twins Chris & Marcel Thiemann, 6-3, 7-6(3). After needing three sets and saving four match points yesterday, the Aggie team kept their focus and played their most complete match of the week en route to the title.
Without a doubt, this year’s USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships featured incredibly high-quality tennis, fierce competition, and the outstanding sportsmanship prevalent throughout collegiate sports. And after watching the performances by all of today’s finalists, onlookers left feeling certain that they all have very bright futures ahead of them, and that they may one day see these current collegians back at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, playing outdoors at the U.S. Open.
2010 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships
USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center
►Men’s Final: Rhyne Williams (SO, Tennessee) def. No. 7 Steve Johnson (JR, USC) 1-6, 6-1, 6-4
►Men’s Doubles Final: Austin Krajicek and Jeff Dadamo (Texas A&M) def. No. 4 Chris Thiemann and Marcel Thiemann (Ole Miss) 6-3, 7-6(3)
►Women’s Final: No. 7 Maria Sanchez (SR, USC) def. No. 2 Jana Juricova (JR, Cal-Berkeley) 6-2, 3-6, 6-4
►Women’s Doubles Final: Sophie Oyen and Allie Will (Florida) def. No. 3 Josipa Bek and Keri Wong (Clemson) 5-7, 6-3, 6-3