TULSA, Okla. – An exciting day of singles and doubles semifinal action Sunday at the 2015 Saint Francis Health System ITA Men’s All-American Championships has set the stage for a historic conclusion Monday at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center on the University of Tulsa campus in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
The singles final matches a pair of Top 10-nationally ranked players as No. 4 seed (10th ranked) Dominik Koepfer of Tulane will take on No. 3 (8th ranked) Thai-Son Kwiatkowski of Virginia. Start time for Monday’s championship match is set for 9 a.m. CT. Live video and scoring is available at www.tulsahurricane.com.
Koepfer, a senior, is the first player from Tulane to reach the All-American final. He defeated Cal’s Andre Goransson in Sunday’s semifinal contest 6-4, 6-4.
“My first year, I didn’t even make the tournament,” said Koepfer. “Second year I was pre-qualies and lost in the first round. Last year I made the quarters out of qualies and now I’ve made another big step. I think it’s going to help the entire team and give us a lot of confidence and it’s just a great feeling.”
Each set in the semifinal tilt was close, but the gutty Koepfer found a way to prevail. In the first, he broke Goransson to clinch the set, and in the second, battled back from 0-40 on his serve to hold for a 4-3 lead. Koepfer managed another break to take a 5-3 advantage and after losing a service game, closed out the match breaking Goransson once again.
“That (holding serve at three-all) was definitely a big moment,” said Koepfer. “I felt really good mentally today; I was down love-forty three times and held twice. That helped a lot and gave me a lot of confidence.”
Kwiatkowski not only will be playing in the singles final thanks to a 6-3, 6-2 win against Stanford’s Tom Fawcett, but he’ll also compete in the doubles final with teammate Mac Styslinger, as Kwiatkowski looks to become the first player to win the All-American singles and doubles championships since Tennessee’s John-Patrick Smith accomplished the feat in 2009. In addition, the Cavalier junior looks to become the fifth Virginia player in the past six years to win the All-American singles title, and sixth straight ACC competitor to hoist the winner’s trophy.
“I don’t feel like I’ve been hitting the ball too well this week, but I’ve been moving well and am getting to a few more shots and playing that extra ball and I think that’s really big in college tennis.”
In doubles, Kwiatkowski and Styslinger ousted one of Florida’s two semifinalist teams, Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson. After falling behind early in the opening set, the Virginia duo rallied and took the first 6-4 and raced out to an early second set lead and never looked back, closing out the match 6-3.
“It was tough getting a read on their returns and both of their serves move a lot, so once we were able to get a good read on it, I felt like we started returning better,” said Styslinger. “It’s a good feeling to be moving on to the final.”
Facing Virginia in the doubles final will be Brett Clark and Robert Kelly of North Carolina, who defeated Florida’s Maxx Lipman and Elliott Orkin in straight sets 6-4, 7-5. With Kwiatkowski competing in singles, the doubles final will begin not before 11 a.m. CT. Clark and Kelly will look to become the first players from North Carolina to win an All-American championship.
“Getting to the finals of any tournament is a great feeling,” said Clark. “We had a good warm-up tournament a couple of weeks ago and we won that, so we had really good momentum coming in. Everyone in this tournament is good; the draw’s only 32 so every team is good every round you play. We’re looking forward to the finals.”
Kelly said that the caveat of earning an automatic bid (both doubles finalists, singles quarterfinalists and consolation champions earn automatic bids) into the 2015 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships on Nov. 12-15, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadow, New York, was a motivating factor entering Tulsa.
“We’re excited and it was a goal of ours coming in,” said Kelly. “A couple of points here and there and we’re not going.”
The doubles consolation draw concluded on Sunday, with Oklahoma State’s Julian Cash and Arjun Kadhe earning an invitation to the NIIC with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Virginia Tech’s Andreas Bjerrehus and Joao Monteiro.
Monday’s 9 a.m. CT singles consolation final pits Sam Shropshire of Northwestern against Ohio State’s Mikael Torpegaard. Shropshire outlasted Stefan Lindmark of Mississippi in three sets 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (2), while Torpegaard beat Georgia’s Austin Smith in straights 6-4, 6-4. The singles consolation final winner earns an automatic NIIC bid.
The 2015 Saint Francis Health System ITA Men’s All-American Championships is the second national championship tournament of the 2015-16 men’s season, with the University of Tulsa serving as official tournament host for the 11th straight year. Updated draws and main draw daily recaps can be found at the ITA Championship Central page http://www.itatennis.com/Events/ITANationalChampionships/MensAllAmerican.htm. You can also follow the conversation on Twitter by following @ITATennis and using the hashtag #TulsaITA.