FLUSHING, NY - For the second time in the past month of the fall tennis season, the top-seeded men's singles player was issued an early first round exit at an ITA National Championship as Virginia's Alex Domijan, fresh off his D'Novo/ITA All-American singles title was unable to hold off Rhyne Williams of Tennessee in a double-tiebreak two-set match at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
"I feel pretty confident", said Williams. "I feel like I've played exceptional tennis this fall. I could tell right away it was going to be a good match and after beating Alex, that's definitely a big confidence booster. The way I played today, I hope I can keep that going because that's the game style I want."
"With him having such a great serve, I felt like I let up a little at the beginning of the second set and thought I was in trouble. But I hit some good returns and he missed some serves that allowed me to take control of some points on his serve and get back into it."
If misery truly does love company, Domijan, the nation's top-ranked freshman can take heart in the fact that many other top seeds would join him in losing efforts in first round action.
Domijan followed in the footsteps of Tennessee's J.P. Smith, who entered the All-American tournament as the top-seed and returning singles and doubles champion only to lose his first match of the October championship. Smith's fall falters continued today with a loss as the fifth-seed to Texas A&M's Austin Krajicek, who also pulled off an upset with doubles teammate and long-time friend Jeff Dadamo, against reigning indoor champions, Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher from Stanford.
"Jeff and I seem to come out really focused at the National Indoors and we got off to a good start today so that helped a lot", said Krajicek. "Obviously both of us prefer a little bit faster courts so these compliment our game pretty nicely, but the main thing is just intensity so hopefully we'll have another quick start tomorrow and keep it going."
The number two seed, Eric Quigley, who finished runner-up to Domijan in the D'Novo/ITA All-American Championships, also fought off a double-tiebreak first two sets before dropping the third to another super-frosh, Blaz Rola of Ohio State.
Even doubles offered up some very surprising results, with three seeded teams dropping eight-game pro sets, including the top women's duo of Stanford's Hilary Barte and Mallory Burdette, Riviera/ITA All-American Champions, and nearly the top men's team of Henrique Cunha and Reid Carleton, who were able to pull out a tiebreak victory.
Barte, who earned the top seed in singles and doubles after sweeping the All-American tournament last month, is still alive in singles with a straight set victory over Tennessee's Brynn Boren, setting up a second-round matchup against a familiar foe in Cal's Mari Andersson. Andersson issued a commanding 6-0, 6-2 defeat to the Small College Super Bowl Champion, Kristin Strimple of NAIA program Point Loma Nazarene.
Even though Strimple never seem to get her footing against her Division I opponent today, current and former Small College player participants displayed to the Division I players just how worthy they were to be invited to these championships.
Last year's Super Bowl Champion, Sona Novakova, formerly of Armstrong Atlantic State, a Division II powerhouse, had a fair showing and held her own in New Haven last year. Since transferring to Baylor though, she has quickly developed her game even more, capturing the USTA/ITA Texas Regional singles and doubles titles. Today, those who had not yet had a chance to see her game, were able to watch her fight off a first-set tiebreak and pull out a straight set victory over No. 8 Reka Zsilinzska of Duke.
It wasn't just the small college women who put on a strong performance as the Super Bowl Doubles Champions, Rafael Array and Mikk Irdoja, also of Armstrong Atlantic State, jumped on top of the USTA/ITA Mountain Region Champs from BYU from the start and never looked back, picking up an 8-4 win. They face another upstart team tomorrow in Jean Andersen and Ed Corrie from Texas, who eliminated the No. 2-seeded UCLA twosome.
"We played a solid match today and executed our chances well", said Irdoja. "Winning the Small Collage Super Bowl gave us a lot of confident and we are excited for our next matches in such a prestigious tournament."
However, even with so many seeds receiving early round knockouts, the biggest surprise to most came at the hands of Domijan and his Virginia teammates, who went 0-3 in singles and had two other players pull out of the draw yesterday, in Michael Shabaz and Jarmere Jenkins, both of whom qualified for singles and doubles, thus eliminating all UVA doubles teams completely.
Nearly one month ago to the day, the Virginia men's team became just the third team in the 32-year history of the D'Novo/ITA Men's All-American Championships to advance three different players into the singles quarterfinals.
Domijan was joined in the loser's bracket by teammates Drew Courtney and Sanam Singh, who also each lost matches that featured two sets that went into a tiebreak set.
The USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships feature the nation's top men's and women's collegiate tennis players competing at the new indoor facilities at the USTA-Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, located in Flushing, New York with Columbia University serving as the tournament host.
Play resumes Friday with doubles matches beginning at 9 am ET.
For complete results and event information, visit www.itatennis.com.