FLUSHING, NY - After witnessing a crazy first round of play yesterday at the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, which had half of the men's singles seeds falling, including the tournament's top two seeds, day two offered up even more surprising results.
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.
With two rounds of singles taking place today to determine tomorrow's semifinal matches, the top seeds have all but disappeared from the tournament. No. 1 Alex Domijan of Virginia, No. 2 Eric Quigley of Kentucky, No. 5 John-Patrick Smith of Tennessee and No. 6 Guillermo Gomez were all unable to make it out of the first round, leaving just four seeds remaining.
This left the door open for the draws' top remaining seed, sophomore Henrique Cunha from Duke to take advantage of the early falters. His second-round opponent was Louisville's Austen Childs, the 2010 NCAA Singles Runner-Up, who is known for raising his game for big matches. This match would be no different as Cunha was able to find his shots early before Childs changed the speed of his shots just enough to throw off the Dukie and take the match, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4.
"I was really impressed with the way Austen was able to read his opponent after dropping the first set", said Head Coach Rex Ecarma. "Instead of trying to force power behind his shots, knowing that Cunha would be used to the speed of the courts, Austen was able to slow down his shots, placing the ball out of reach for his opponent."
Childs' next match would be just as tough, facing the reigning USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Champion in 7th-seeded Steve Johnson of USC. Johnson, who also recently won the D'Novo/ITA All-American Singles Consolation title last month in Tulsa, has come out firing on all cylinders, surrendering just seven games in the first two rounds.
This time, Johnson was able to feed Childs a little bit of his own medicine. After dropping the first set in a grind-them-out tiebreaker set, Johnson was able to make adjustments, claiming the next two sets pretty handily, making the No. 7 seed the only men's singles seed left standing in the tournament after Ohio State's Chase Buchanan, the eighth-seed, never found his footing against Texas Tech's Gonzalo Escobar, who was also eliminated by Alexandre Lacroix of Florida in the day's second set of singles matches.
The win by Lacroix sets up an intriguing matchup against conference foe Rhyne Williams of Tennessee, who picked up the tournament's first big win yesterday, knocking out top-seeded freshman Alex Domijan of Virginia. The two have a history of epic matches, most recently at last month's D'Novo/ITA All-American Championships, where the final outcome resulted in a 3-6, 7-6 , 7-6  come-from-behind victory for the Florida Frenchman.
"He showed a lot of character today", said Associate Head Coach Chris Woodruff. "We've had some trouble in the past playing two matches in one day, and we've had trouble keeping our focus. One positive of the day is that he beat a guy who beat him about five weeks ago, and did so convincingly. Then he was also able to come back and show his character again by winning a three-set match in the evening. He's clearly playing at a really high level right now, and I know he's looking forward to the opportunity tomorrow."
On the women's side, the top seven seeds all advanced out of round one. Day two provided a bit more drama as top-seeded Hilary Barte of Stanford, No. 3 Kristy Frilling of Notre Dame, No. 4 Denise Muresan of Michigan and No. 5 Denise Dy of Washington were all eliminated in one of the two rounds of singles matches on Friday.
Unlike the men's draw, three seeds still remain after each of them were able to pick up a victory over the previously aforementioned seeds with Florida's Allie Will providing the biggest wins of the day.
Will began the day with a solid 8-2 victory over Tennessee's Brynn Boren and Maria Sorbello on the doubles court pairing with Gator freshman Sofie Oyen, who look to capture an even tougher victory against another fellow SEC team in second-ranked Alexa Guarachi and Courtney McLane of Alabama.
The Gator sophomore then turned her attention to the singles court, where she rallied for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 victory against Northwestern's sixth-ranked Maria Mosolova, before upsetting arguably the fall's most impressive performer in Stanford's top-seeded Hilary Barte, 6-4, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
Will is the first Gator to reach the semifinals in either draw of the National Indoor Championships since 2005, when Diana Srebrovic won the singles title of the national event.
"Allie played at a high level all day," UF head coach Roland Thornqvist said. "She played her best tennis in the quarterfinal match. She had great focus and needed to come up with some great defense against Hilary, who likes to press forward. Allie had good depth, for the most part, and played with a lot of poise. She played like a champion."
Will has won nine consecutive singles matches and faces Southern California's third-ranked Maria Sanchez, who picked up two top-10 wins herself on the day, after posting two straight-set victories over Clemson's Josipa Bek and Muresan in the second round and quarterfinals, respectively.
Will and Sanchez will be joined in tomorrow's semifinals by super-sophomore Aeriel Ellis of Texas and Jana Juricova of Cal. Juricova, the top-remaining seed and top-ranked player in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings, is hands down the favorite as she looks to repeat her USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate title she won nearly one year ago to the day.
Even doubles offered up some very surprising results as the men's top-ranked and top-seeded duo of Cunha and Reid Carleton of Duke were ousted by the red-hot Georgia Tech team of Juan Spir and Kevin King. With the Blue Devils' loss, only the No. 4 pair of Rebel twins, Chris and Marcel Thiemann, remain seeded.
"It is a great achievement for us (to be in the semifinals)", Chris said. "All the hard work this semester is paying off. We are playing great, but we want more!"
Next up for the Thiemann's is the Texas team of Jean Anderson and Ed Corrie who upset the No. 2-seeded UCLA duo in the first round.
"We are familiar with them," said Marcel of the Texas team. "We just need to stick to what we have been doing the last couple of weeks, because it's worked well so far."
With the women's top seed falling on day 1, Juricova and her partner Mari Andersson, who nearly took down Barte in the second round, are primed to collect as much hardware as they can as the No. 2 seed. They face their biggest test tomorrow versus the Riviera/ITA All-American Champions from Clemson, Bek and Keri Wong, the tournament's third seed.
For complete results and event information, visit www.itatennis.com.