FLUSHING, N.Y. – On day two of the 2015 American Collegiate Invitational, UCLA owned the courts at the USTA Billie Jean King National tennis Center in Flushing, New York.
It’ll be an all-Bruins final in the women’s draw, as teammates and long-time friends Robin Anderson and Chanelle Van Nguyen will face off on Saturday after each advanced past their semifinal opponents on Friday in straight sets.
“I’ve known Chanelle since she was 10 and I was 11, so I’ve known Chanelle for a very long time,” said Anderson, the 2015 ITA National College Player of the Year and the top-ranked singles player in the final Oracle/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings. “We both know how the other plays; we’ve played many practice matches against each other, so there won’t be any surprises (on Saturday).”
On the men’s side, UCLA’s Mackenzie McDonald will take on Vanderbilt’s Gonzales Austin in the final. McDonald will look to be the second straight Bruin men’s player to win the ACI, as Marcos Giron claimed the title in 2014.
Anderson played twice on Friday, first stepping onto the courts to complete her suspended quarterfinal match against Florida’s Josie Kuhlman. Anderson won in straights, 6-0, 6-2.
In the semifinals, Anderson squared off with Julia Jones of Ole Miss, who also was playing her second contest of the day. Jones, who topped last year’s ACI runner-up, Virginia’s Julia Elbaba, 7-5, 6-3, in the quarterfinals, dropped the first set to Anderson 6-1 and was down 4-0 and 5-2 in the second set, but won three straight games to even the set at five, before ultimately falling 7-5.
“I felt like I let the first set get away from me,” said Jones, the ITA’s Most Improved Player of 2015. “We had a couple of close games that could’ve made that set a lot closer. My game plan the whole time was pretty much the same, I think if anything, I just got myself together a little bit and kept playing my game. I’m happy that I hung in there and battled.”
Van Nguyen, an alternate selection to the ACI field, topped Georgia’s Lauren Herring, 6-3, 6-3, to set up a rematch of the 2014 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championship final, won 6-0, 6-2 by Anderson.
“She’s my best friend off the court, but we have no problem playing each other,” said Van Nguyen, who finished the 2014-15 season ranking No. 13 in the nation and is a two-time ITA All-American.
McDonald punched his ticket to the men’s final with a tidy 6-2, 6-2 win over Virginia’s Thai-Son Kwiatkowski.
“I was just trying to move the ball around,” said McDonald, who ended last year No. 3 in the Oracle/ITA Collegiate Tennis Rankings. “Thai makes a lot of balls and I just wanted to keep him moving and make him uncomfortable out there.”
Friday’s lone three-set match of the day was an intense battle between Austin and Virginia’s Ryan Shane. Shane, the defending NCAA Singles National Champion, took the first set 6-3, but Austin squeaked out the second set tiebreak, 7-5, and won the third set, match-deciding tiebreak in another close encounter, 8-6.
“Ryan’s really added a lot to his game since the last time we’ve played,” said Austin, a four-time ITA first team All-American and 2015 SEC Player of the Year. “His movement is much better, he came out in the first set making a lot of balls. He hit a ton of winners and there wasn’t much I could do. In the second set, I just started making a few more balls and started going for shots so he couldn’t dictate (the pace).
“I knew it’d be a close match and really it came down to just a couple of errors on his end,” Austin said. “I tried to stay and hang in there as much as I could and it worked out.”
The ACI is open only to American college players, with the champions earning main-draw wild cards into the 2016 US Open if either is ranked No. 120 or better by the 2016 US Open entry deadline next summer. Otherwise, the winners will receive qualifying wild cards. The champions will also get wild cards into two USTA Pro Circuit events, while each runner-up will earn one wild card.
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