Freshman Frank, Veterans Buchanan/Rola Win All-American Titles
Quigley of Kentucky, Andrews/Konigsfeldt of Cal Earn Consolation Honors
TULSA, OKLA.-- Over the past nine days, 310 men's tennis players from 60 different countries and 84 Division I schools have come to the University of Tulsa in search of the first national championship of the 2011-12 season.
After 13 rounds of singles and nine of doubles, one fresh face - and two familiar ones - emerged triumphant on Sunday.
Freshman Mitchell Frank of Virginia capped off his first full collegiate tournament with the singles title at the ITA Men's All-American Championships, while 2010 doubles runners-up Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola of Ohio State earned one more win this year to clinch the doubles crown.
Frank eliminated a senior for the fifth time in four days, defeating No. 5 seed Wil Spencer of Georgia 6-1, 7-5 in the final.
"I'm sure I'm going to be seeing more of these guys throughout the year," said Frank. "I'll be expecting guys like Dennis [Nevolo], Daniel [Nguyen] and Wil to come out again and be even stronger next time. So I'm going to keep working."
After his serve was broken three times by Frank in the first set, Spencer came within two points of winning the second. But with Frank keeping the ball deep in Spencer's court despite heavy winds, the Georgia senior was unable to serve out the set at 5-4.
"He gets a ton of balls back," said Spencer. "It seemed like I was playing against a backboard. Especially in the wind, he played smart by keeping the ball high, where it's tough to attack."
With so much attention paid to Frank's defensive skills, his serve often goes unnoticed. But at 5-5, 30-all in the second set, Frank hit an ace out wide, and then another strong first serve, which he followed with a heavy crosscourt forehand approach that drew a Spencer error.
"I always serve well on the bigger points, which is a good thing because it gets you out of trouble," said Frank. "I've worked on my serve a lot in the last week or so. When it's windy like this, it's obviously good to locate the serves well and I felt like I did that."
On his second match point, Frank captured the title in the same fashion that he won so many rallies in Tulsa: grinding away behind the baseline until his weary opponent offered up an error.
Besides playing differently than most collegiate players, Frank also takes a unique approach to coaching. Though Virginia assistant coaches Andres Pedroso and Scott Brown were on site during the tournament, Frank did not seek advice from either during changeovers, often talking to himself about strategy as he switched sides of the court.
"I win a lot of matches because guys break down and get frustrated," said Frank. "It's a little tougher in college because they have the coaches to calm them down, and a set that may be 6-0 will be 6-4.
"But with my goal being to play professional tennis, I told Scott, Andres and Brian [Boland, head coach] that I want to figure it out on my own because that's what I'm going to have to do in a couple years."
In the doubles final, Buchanan and Rola defeated No. 1 seeds Kevin King and Juan Spir of Georgia Tech 6-3, 6-7(5), 6-4.
The Buckeyes appeared poised to beat the Yellow Jackets in straight sets, breaking King twice in the first set, and then cracking Spir's serve to take a 5-3 lead in the second.
But after eight straight Ohio State holds, the left-handed Rola had his serve broken, sparking a Georgia Tech comeback that saw King and Rola take the second set in a tiebreak.
Spir, however, dropped serve again to begin the final set. He and King had a chance to break back with Buchanan serving for the match at 5-4 in the third. But a poaching King framed a volley to allow the Buckeyes to get back to deuce.
Buchanan took over from there, crisply dropping a forehand volley on the sideline to force an error, and then securing the title for Ohio State with a service winner off the net cord.
"We didn't do well in the singles tournament here," said Rola, "but we got the best from ourselves in doubles."
The consolation singles championship went to Kentucky senior Eric Quigley, who defeated Pepperdine's Sebastian Fanselow 6-3, 6-3. Quigley has played some of the best tennis of his career in Tulsa, having also reached the main draw singles final in 2010 and the singles and doubles quarterfinals in 2009.
"I'm proud of myself for sticking in there and making it through the back draw, beating some very tough guys along the way," said Quigley, who holds 17 career wins at the ITA Men's All-American Championships. "I've had great success here in Tulsa, and even though I didn't have a chance to win it all, I wanted to do as best as I possibly could."
Nick Andrews and Christoffer Konigsfeldt of California beat Devin McCarthy and Ille Van Engelen of Ohio State 8-5 to win the consolation doubles title, providing a happy ending to a difficult tournament for the Golden Bears.
"We went 0-8 as a team on the first day, ending with our doubles loss in the first round [of the main draw]," said Andrews. "But it was a new day the next day and we had to get going. Our first-round [consolation] match against Kentucky built some momentum because we were down four match points and came back."
By winning the consolation titles, Andrews, Konigsfeldt and Quigley earned a trip to the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in November for the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships. They will be joined by the eight main draw singles quarterfinalists and both main draw doubles finalists.