FLUSHING, NY – All week, Francesca Di Lorenzo has had to look herself square in the face, and it has nothing to do with vanity, motivation … or mirrors for that matter.
The Ohio State sophomore literally cannot walk through the viewing gallery of the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, site of the 2016 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, without seeing a banner with her photo on it.
The banners – including Di Lorenzo’s – are tributes to former National Indoors singles champions from the past four years. After Saturday’s 6-1, 6-2 victory over Duke’s Meibel Chi in the semifinals, the top-seeded Di Lorenzo is now just one victory away from repeating as National Indoors champion and earning her third overall ITA National Championship.
“I try not to think about (repeating) as much as I can. It’s a new tournament and a new year, so anything can happen,” said Di Lorenzo, who will face North Carolina’s Hayley Carter in Sunday’s final. “A lot of surprises have happened in this tournament and I know that everyone is going to come out ready to play, so I’ve tried to not look at that poster too much and just focus on coming out each match and executing and playing the best that I can to be successful.”
Di Lorenzo came into her semifinal contest with Chi looking to be the aggressor, and she did just that, winning nine straight games at one point during the match en route to the straight set victory.
“I came out playing better than I was the past two days, so I was pretty happy with the way I played, in terms of being aggressive and putting the pressure on her,” said Di Lorenzo. “That was key to winning the match.”
Having made deep runs in fall tournaments each of the past two years has given Di Lorenzo a clearer picture of what to anticipate and prepare for when she steps onto the court.
“College tennis is very competitive,” said Di Lorenzo. “Last year, I didn’t really know what to expect having just come in from juniors. Now I know the players more and the courts better, including here, so I have a better idea of what to expect and how to prepare for these matches.”
Di Lorenzo and Carter have faced each other three times, with the Buckeye winning all three contests, including their last meeting, which came at the 2016 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships semifinal round. Di Lorenzo won that match 7-6 (3), 6-2. After taking down Vanderbilt’s Astra Sharma 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals at National Indoors, Carter knows that she’s in for a tough battle on Sunday in the final.
“In my mind, there’s not much to lose,” said Carter. “She’s an incredible player, an incredible person and I’m looking forward to (the match). I’m going to have to grind for sure; she gets ball after ball after ball back, so I’m going to have to be a little more aggressive than I’m used to.”
Carter, who reached the semifinal round at both the Women’s All-American Championships (she won the doubles title with Jessie Aney) and Oracle ITA Masters (she won the Mixed Doubles title with Georgia Tech’s Chris Eubanks), was excited about getting through to a tournament final in singles.
“I was thinking about that before the match that I didn’t want to lose in three straight semifinals,” said Carter. “It’s great to make that leap into the finals.”
The men’s singles final on Sunday will feature No. 1 Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State taking on No. 7 Michael Redlicki of Arkansas. Torpegaard defeated No. 4 Nuno Borges of Mississippi State in three sets 6-4, 6-7 (6), 6-0, while Redlicki got the better of Eubanks in two tiebreaks 7-1 in the first set and 7-4 in the second.
“At a certain point it becomes a matter of who is willing to work harder,” said Redlicki. “We were both on today, you could see it. No one was missing their serve that much and we were both hitting shots off the ground that people haven’t seen before in college tennis. In the tiebreakers, it got twice as hard and I had to fight for every single one, especially against a great server like Chris Eubanks. I was able to get out to early leads in the tiebreakers and that was really crucial for me.”
Valparaiso’s Jeffrey Schorsch and Charlie Emhardt continued their Cinderella run through the National Indoors men’s doubles draw, defeating Columbia’s Victor and Richard Pham 7-6 (8), 6-3 to reach Sunday’s final.
“It’s extremely exciting,” said Valparaiso men’s tennis coach Jim Daugherty. “I’m trying to restrain my excitement, especially on the court, so that I can think straight and coach them. There is so much elation afterward, but then we have to think about what we need to do for the next match, so there’s kind of a restraint with the celebration.
“These two seniors have played with each other all four years and I have a lot of confidence in them,” added Daugherty. “Much of the time, I just need to stay out of their way, just a little guidance here and there. I couldn’t be happier for them.”
The Valpo duo will take on the No. 2 seed out of Wake Forest, Skander Mansouri and Christian Seraphim. The Demon Deacons held off Michigan’s Jathan Malik and Kevin Wong 3-6, 7-5, 1-0 (4).
The women’s doubles final features UCLA’s Jada Hart and Ena Shibahara facing Kentucky’s Mami Adachi and Aldila Sutjiadi. Hart and Shibahara defeated Oklahoma State’s Vladica Babic and Carla Tur Mari 6-3, 6-3 in one semifinal, while Adachi and Sutjiadi slipped past Syracuse’s Gabriela Knutson and Valeria Salazar 6-3, 4-6, 1-0 (8). It's the second straight finals appearance for the Wildcat duo, who fell to North Carolina's Carter and Whitney Kay in the 2015 final.
The USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, which runs through Nov. 6, is the fourth national championship of the 2016-17 ITA National Tournament calendar. Earlier this fall, national champions were crowned at the Men’s and Women’s All-American Championships, the Oracle ITA Masters and ITA Oracle Cup.
FloTennis is providing exclusive live streaming coverage of the entire 2016 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, with at least one camera positioned on all nine competition courts. A subscription-based company, FloTennis offers its users monthly and annual rate payment options. For more information and to view the live stream, click on this link.
Live scoring is also be available for the entire tournament, which along with updated draws, daily recaps, photo gallery links and other tournament information, can be viewed on the official ITA event page here. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter by following @ITA_Tennis and using the hashtag #NationalIndoors.
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