NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The possibility of J.P. Smith's quest to sweep back-to-back singles and doubles titles at the fall ITA National Championships came to a halt as Tennessee's top-ranked doubles team of Smith and Davey Sandgren were upset by an upstart Texas A&M squad today at the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, hosted by Yale University, November 5-8 at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center in New Haven, Conn.
The Texas A&M tandem of Austin Krajicek and Jeff Dadamo stunned the top-ranked Vols that were selected as the 2009 Campbell/ITA Doubles Team of the Year in an 8-3 victory.
"We got off to a very fast start," Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton said. "These doubles pro-sets indoors are usually a sprint. We were more aggressive than Tennessee which was the difference. For an early morning match, our guys came out with a lot of energy and were fired up, ready to play. Once we had the momentum and had the second break at 5-2, Austin and Jeff relaxed and played even better."
Krajicek and Dadamo have won seven-straight matches (7-0) since the beginning of their successful tournament run at the Wilson/ITA Texas Regional Championships held in College Station which resulted in an automatic bid to the ITA National lndoors as the doubles titlists. The victory matched Krajicek's highest career doubles victory, while it was the first for Dadamo who is a transfer from the University of Florida playing in his first season for the Aggies.
The two Aggies may have only played a total of seven matches together but have loads of chemistry stemming from their days growing up in Florida. "Both of us are from the Tampa area and knew each other from local tournaments", said Dadamo. "We just need to take care of what we need to do for the next match, knowing that if we win the last point, we win the match", said Krajicek. "Champions are made when no one is looking."
Smith recently achieved a feat that only two others have accomplished in the history of the ITA Men's All-American Championships, by capturing the singles and doubles titles in early October. Even with the loss in doubles, Smith's singles title hopes are still very much alive as he picked up two more wins today to advance to tomorrow's semifinals. The road was perhaps paved a bit easier for Smith as five of the remaining seven seeds in men's singles were all ousted in today's competition.
"I've been practicing a lot and getting stronger physically and mentally", said Smith. "Last year I didn't know what to expect, being my first time playing in this event, the pressure got to me a little bit. This year, I learned from the mistakes I made last year. Winning the All-American has given me a lot of confidence especially knowing that I can win big matches."
"As far as the doubles loss today, we've been mixing it up a lot to create some depth on our team as I've already played with four partners this fall", said Smith. "Coming here not having played with Davey in nearly two months, it really takes a lot of time to get used to your partner again, which is something we'll have to work on looking forward to the spring."
Entering play today, there were seven players, including Smith, with an opportunity to advance to the semifinals in both singles and doubles. Of those seven not one was able to complete the feat. Also, entering the quarterfinal singles, five sets of teammates had the opportunity for both to reach the semifinals. Of those five, not one team was able to accomplish the task.
On the women's side, Georgia Tech's Irina Falconi, the highest remaining singles seed continues her quest to pad an already incredible summer and fall resume. The 2009 Riviera/ITA All-American singles champion outscored eighth-ranked Venise Chan of Washington and ninth-ranked Josipa Bek of Clemson, an astounding 24-4 to head into tomorrow's semifinals as the assumed favorite.
However, two other top seeds will square off tomorrow in hopes of dethroning Falconi, should she advance past Baylor's Lenka Broosova to the women's finals. Cal's Jana Juricova is the next highest seed at No. 4 and will see a familiar face across the net in Pac-10 rival Denise Dy of Washington, the No. 7 seed. Ironically, both Washington and California were two of the teams who had the opportunity to place a set of teammates in the semis.
The women's doubles draw continues to offer up very few surprises as three of the top four seeds have all made it into the semifinals. The only team to take a fall was the No. 3 seeded Cal team. Oddly enough, on the men's side, the only seeded squad still alive is the No. 3 seed, Stanford's Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher.
These championships feature a 32-player singles field and 16-team doubles field for men and women, including: champions from Wilson/ITA Regional Championships held across the country during October, the ITA National Small College "Super Bowl" champions, the singles semifinalists and doubles champions of the D'Novo/ITA Men's All-American Tennis Championships and Riviera/ITA Women's All-American Championships, and at-large and wild card selections made by the ITA National Tournament Committee.
Play resumes Saturday with semifinal doubles matches beginning at 9 am ET.