TULSA, Okla. – Virginia’s Thai-Son Kwiatkowski appears determined to bring home some hardware from the Michael D. Case Tennis Center, site of the 2015 Saint Francis Health System ITA Men’s All-American Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Kwiatkowski, the highest-remaining seeded player in the singles draw at No. 3, won his Round of 16 and quarterfinal matches on Saturday, in addition to teaming with Mac Styslinger in doubles to take down New Mexico’s Hayden Sabatka and Bart Van Leijsen 6-2, 6-3 to reach the doubles semifinals.
“After our first home tournament, I took five, six days off, so I feel very fresh,” said Kwiatkowski, who is looking to become the fifth Cavalier in the past six years to win the ITA All-American. “I’ve done a good job this tournament of managing my body well between matches.”
The Virginia junior, who reached the semifinals here in Tulsa a year ago, toppled Cal’s Florian Lakat 6-4, 6-3 to advance to the afternoon’s quarterfinal round. In the quarters, Kwiatkowski ran into a red-hot Konrad Zieba of Northwestern, who earned his automatic qualifier spot for the 2015 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships (all eight quarterfinalists are NIIC automatic qualifiers) with a three-set victory over Dartmouth’s Dovydas Sakinis 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-2.
Zieba held the match’s momentum early and claimed the first set 7-5. The No. 8-nationally ranked Kwiatkowski bounced back, however and pulled even at a set apiece with a 6-2 second set victory. In the deciding third set, Kwiatkowski grabbed an early lead and didn’t look back, taking the set and match 6-3.
“He just played better than me in the first set and I was lucky to make it to 7-5,” said Kwiatkowski. “In the second, I tried to play my game more; I was too defensive in the first set. In a no-ad match anything can happen. I held once on my serve and got a break to get ahead.”
Two representatives from the Pac-12 advanced to the singles semifinals, as Cal’s Andre Goransson and Stanford’s Tom Fawcett each won their two contests on Saturday in straight sets. Goransson will play Tulane’s Dominik Koepfer in one semifinal, with Fawcett meeting Kwiatkowski in the other match.
Goransson, ranked No. 22 in the nation, opened the day with a strong 6-2, 6-1 win against Aron Hiltzik of Illinois. Goransson followed that performance up by topping San Diego’s Uros Petronijevic 6-3, 6-4.
The big-serving Fawcett looked impressive in a 6-4, 6-0 Round of 16 win over Auburn’s Korey Lovett, who a day earlier dispatched No. 1 seed Quentin Monaghan of Notre Dame. In the quarterfinals against No. 7 seed Ronnie Schneider of North Carolina (who defeated Texas A&M’s Shane Vinsant 6-3, 6-7 (3), 6-2 to reach the quarters), Fawcett worked quickly in the first set, 6-2, but had to rally back from a 5-4 deficit to earn the second set 7-5 and secure the match.
Tulane’s Koepfer looked to follow in Kwiatkowski’s path of staying alive in both the singles and doubles draws, but while he navigated past two match points in his singles quarterfinal contest with Ohio State’s Hugo Di Feo, he and doubles partner Chi Shan Jao couldn’t close out a pair of match points against Florida’s Maxx Lipman and Elliott Orkin, and wound up losing in three sets in their quarterfinal contest.
Koepfer, the No. 4 seed in the singles draw, started off the day with an efficient 6-4, 6-4 win over Florida State’s Benjamin Lock in the Round of 16. Koepfer’s quarterfinal match saw him down two match points in the second set to Buckeye freshman Di Feo, but the 10th-ranked Koepfer managed to battle back and win the final nine games to earn a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 decision.
“I just tried to make a play,” said Koepfer. “He had an overhand and I just tried to get the ball back and hit a good passing shot. I just happened to be there where he hit the shot. It was huge breaking him at five-all with that backhanded passing shot and that turned the whole match around.”
In doubles, Koepfer and Jao won the first set 6-4 and worked their way into two match point opportunities in the second set, but Lipman and Orkin weren’t to be denied as they took the second set in a tiebreak (7-5) and then won the 10-point third set tiebreak 10-5.
“The last two days we’ve struggled in the first set; we’ve lost both of them,” said Lippman. “In the second set, we’ve really picked up our game. In this match, towards the end of match (Orkin) started to really play well and making (Tulane) play a lot of balls. Early in the tiebreaker, you have to focus on basis; you’ve got to get the return in, make a high percentage of first serves and make it tough on the opponent. That’s all we’re trying to do.”
Lipman and Orkin aren’t the only Gators team still alive in the doubles draw, as Florida’s Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson punched their ticket to Sunday’s semifinals with a 7-5, 6-3 over Ohio State’s Martin Joyce and Ralf Steinbach.
“I think it shows a lot about the depth of our team,” said Orkin. “Me and Max, and Gordon and Diego both played together all of last year, so I think both teams are getting more experience each and every match that we play.”
Filling out the doubles semifinal bracket is North Carolina’s Brett Clark and Robert Kelly. The Tar Heels defeated Ohio State’s qualifying team of Herkko Pollanen and Mikael Torpegaard 7-6 (4), 6-1. Clark and Kelly face Lipman and Orkin, while Kwiatkowski and Styslinger take on Hidalgo and Watson.
Day Three Notes:
-The eight singles quarterfinalists that earned an automatic entry into NIIC are: Fawcett (Stanford), Schneider (North Carolina), Kwiatkowski (Virginia), Zieba (Northwestern), Di Feo (Ohio State), Koepfer (Tulane), Petronjevic (San Diego) and Goransson (California). Zieba and Di Feo were the two players to advance out of the qualifying draw.
-Consolation singles semifinals are set. Stefan Lindmark of Mississippi takes on Sam Shropshire of Northwestern in one match, while Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State and Austin Smith of Georgia meet in the other contest.
-Consolation doubles semifinals are Virginia Tech’s Andreas Bjerrehus and Joao Monteiro (lucky losers) versus Louisville’s Jeffrey Brown and Alex Gornet. Oklahoma State’s Julian Cash and Arjun Kadhe are set to face Wake Forest’s Skander Mansouri and Christian Seraphim.
-The ACC and SEC each have two teams alive in the main doubles draw. The singles semifinals feature two players from the Pac-12, one from the American and one from the ACC.
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.
This marks the 11th straight year that the University of Tulsa will serve as the official tournament host. Live video and scoring for each main draw match at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center can be viewed at www.tulsahurricane.com, while 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.
Men’s singles quarterfinalists, doubles finalists and consolation champions will receive an automatic entry into the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships on Nov. 12-15, held at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows, New York.
Semifinals in both the main and consolation singles and draws take place on Sunday, with championship matches for scheduled for Monday, Oct. 12.
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