Virginia's Frank, Georgia's Spencer Reach ITA All-American Final
Georgia Tech and Ohio State to Meet for Doubles Title
TULSA, OKLA. -- Coming into this week's ITA Men's All-American Championships, a player from the University of Georgia or University of Virginia had won the Tulsa singles title in three of the last six years.
Make that four of seven.
Georgia senior Wil Spencer and Virginia freshman Mitchell Frank each won two matches on Saturday to advance to Sunday's 10 a.m. final at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center.
In the semifinals, Frank rallied from 2-4 down to defeat Daniel Nguyen of USC 6-4, 6-2.
To get to that match, the No. 1 newcomer in the nation survived a scare in the quarterfinals from Illinois senior Dennis Nevolo, who became the first man to take a set off Frank in his college career.
After winning the second set, Nevolo left the court to use the bathroom, but did not return in the three minutes allowed by tournament rules. For every 20 seconds thereafter, Nevolo received a time violation - ten in total - costing him the first nine points of the final set.
Frank held a 2-0, 15-Love lead without hitting a shot, and he went on to lose only four more points in the match, which he wrapped up 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.
"It's been a very interesting day," said Frank, hoping to become the second straight Virginia freshman to win the Tulsa title after Alex Domijan. "That's probably the strangest thing I've ever seen happen with those point penalties. That obviously helped me get through that match... and I knew coming off the court against Dennis that I would have my hands full with Daniel."
Coaches have spent much of the event trying to come up with a solution to Frank's uniquely defensive playing style.
For six games Saturday, it appeared that USC Head Coach Peter Smith had cracked the code with Nguyen, who clinched the Trojans' last two NCAA Division I team championships.
The USC senior broke Frank to take a 4-2 lead by stepping inside the baseline to hit balls early, mixing his own approaches to the net with shots that forced Frank to move forward.
But as four men before Nguyen found out in Tulsa this week, stealing two sets from Mitchell Frank is easier said than done.
As Nguyen seemingly swayed from his game plan, the Cavalier grinded his way back into the match, which he capped with an ace out wide.
"I started to hit the ball deeper and move it a lot better," said Frank. "I was able to get him out of position a little more than he would have liked, which caused him to force some shots."
Spencer will be the fifth senior to face Frank at the tournament after winning a pair of three-setters on Saturday.
He outlasted Remi Boutillier 6-1, 2-6, 6-4 in the quarterfinals, vomiting immediately after he won a near-endless rally on match point.
A rested and recovered Spencer returned to Court 1 for his semifinal against Costin Paval of Oklahoma, who saved three match points to edge Roy Kalmanovich in a three-hour, 46-minute quarterfinal.
The left-handed Paval capitalized on errant serving from Spencer to win the first set before fatiguing and falling 3-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Serving at 1-1 in the third set, Spencer saved four break points - including two with well-struck passing shots - to stop the Sooner for good.
"Those break points were huge," said Spencer, soaking in an ice bath after his six-set day. "When you're winning, for some reason you get energy. I needed to hold that game because momentum is huge in the third set."
Among the former Georgia Bulldogs to win the ITA Men's All-American Championships singles title are 1986 French Open finalist Mikael Pernfors and 6-foot-10 John Isner, who reached the US Open quarterfinals last month.
Spencer is well aware of the footsteps he's hoping to follow in.
"I've got some big shoes to fill, literally and figuratively (laughs)," said Spencer. "I'm going to do my best tomorrow. [Frank] is a great player. As a freshman, he's already showing how good he is."
Besides the main draw singles final, three other championship matches will be played on the University of Tulsa campus at 10 a.m. Sunday.
The main draw doubles final will feature 2010 runners-up Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola of Ohio State against No. 1 seeds Kevin King and Juan Spir of Georgia Tech. By reaching the final, both teams have already qualified for the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.
One other team has the chance to earn a berth at next month's prestigious tournament in Flushing, N.Y. That spot will go to the winner of the consolation doubles final between Devin McCarthy and Ille Van Engelen of Ohio State and Carlos Cueto and Ben McLachlan of California.
The consolation singles champion will also be competing at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center Nov. 3-6. Sebastian Fanselow of Pepperdine meets 2010 Tulsa main draw singles finalist Eric Quigley of Kentucky for that spot.
For complete coverage of the 2011 ITA Men's All-American Championships, including access to updated draws and live video streaming, please visit ITAtennis.com.