May 24, 2018 10:06:39 AM
WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- Mental toughness was the name of the game Wednesday for Mississippi State's two entries in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championship.
On a hot and humid day at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex, MSU's Giovanni Oradini and Nuno Borges rallied from a set down to advance to Thursday's second-round matches. Their wins mark the first time MSU has had multiple singles players advance to the second round since 2012.
"I'm really proud of Nuno and Giovanni in how they represented Mississippi State so well today," MSU coach Matt Roberts said. "They played so tough, with a lot of determination and belief in themselves."
Oradini lost the first set to Stanford's Tom Fawcett, who is ranked ninth nationally and entered the field as a 9-16 seed, 6-3. After that, Oradini made adjustments to his game that helped him gain momentum.
"I began to change up my service spots a lot more so I could dictate more with my forehand," Oradini said. "After that, I was able to play my game and make him work."
In the second set, things were back-and-forth until Oradini held at 40-15 to take a 5-4 lead he didn't relinquish. In the next game, he broke Fawcett at 30-40 to take the set.
In the third set, Oradini cruised to a 5-1 lead. Fawcett took the next two games, both on no-ad deciding points, to cut Oradini's lead to 5-3. Serving for the match, Oradini faced yet another no-ad point, but smacked a forehand winner just inside the baseline to notch his seventh-straight victory and his 14th in his last 16 matches.
"I thought Giovanni did great mentally through the whole match," Roberts said. "I was very proud of how he came out in the second set after losing the first. He just made a lot of great adjustments. He served smart and made adjustments to his serves, rallies, and patterns after the first set. That really set up his game. Hats off to Tom. He's had an incredible college career. That's why he's so tough. He put a lot of pressure on Gio and made him win it. He had some momentum at the end and Gio did a great job trusting his stuff and serving it out."
In the second round at 8 a.m. Thursday, Oradini will take on Minnesota's Felix Corwin, who is ranked 53rd nationally.
Borges lost the first set to 56th-ranked UCLA Bruin Keegan Smith 6-2. The second-ranked and third-seeded Borges fought back to win a second-set tiebreaker 7-3.
In the third set, Borges rallied from a 30-40 deficit to hold serve to tie the set at 4. Borges served it out to take a 6-4 victory and move on to the second round.
Borges will face Wake Forest's Skander Mansouri, who advanced after Baylor's Johannes Schretter retired due to an injury in the second set. Their match will be at 10:30 a.m. Thursday.
"It was really tough," Borges said of his victory. "He started very clean, especially on his returns. I had to step up on my service games and hope he gives me some free points on his serve. He didn't really give me many in the second set, but I took advantage of a few in the tiebreaker. I just had to wait for him to give me a couple of points to get a break. I took the chance he gave me and finished it out in the third. I felt really good there, mentally, and I think I can take that to the next match."
Roberts noted Borges' mental toughness throughout the match, despite dropping the first set.
"One of our challenges for Nuno today was to play with a lot of intensity and to push himself in those moments with the energy that he needs," Roberts said. "He did a great job uplifting himself on the big moments and he executed really well down the stretch. He was so mentally tough to handle Keegan Smith's huge game and the pressure it puts on you."
The 32-team NCAA Doubles Championships also begins Thursday. Borges will team up with junior Strahinja Rakic to form the nation's top-seeded doubles tandem. They will square off against Louisville's 18th-ranked Chris Morin-Kougoucheff and Parker Wynn at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Ole Miss' Sandkaulen loses to No. 1 player
Ole Miss sophomore Tim Sandkaulen lost to No. 1 seed and top-ranked Martin Redlicki of UCLA 6-4, 4-6, 1-6 Wednesday in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championships at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
Sandkaulen, ranked No. 33, got the first break of the match and led 4-2. He served out the set to grab the early momentum. In the second set, Sandkaulen got an early break again and was serving 4-3, but Redlicki broke back and then won the next two games.
Both players held serve to start the third set, but Redlicki seized the momentum from that point to end Sandkaulen's singles season at 24-13. The loss snapped a four-match winning streak for Sandkaulen, who helped the Rebels advance to the NCAA Sweet 16.
Sandkaulen will team with Fabian Fallert to take on Michigan's Runhao Hua and Alex Knight at 2 p.m. Thursday in the first round of doubles.
Ole Miss' Hartono advances
WINSTON SALEM, N.C. -- Ole Miss sixth-seeded senior Arianne Hartono defeated Oklahoma State's Vladica Babic 7-5, 7-5 in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championships at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
Hartono led 2-0 early in the first set, but both players traded brakes for the next several games for 4-4. After Hartono held for 6-5, she broke Babic again to close out the first set.
Babic regrouped and got the early break to begin the second set. Hartono broke back right away, but then Babic broke two more times to get a 4-1 lead. Hartono stayed with it and won four-straight games to go up 5-4. After Babic held, Hartono held for 6-5 and then broke to close out the match.
Hartono (32-6) also beat Babic in straight sets in a dual match at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in January.
With her latest win, Hartono moved into a tie for ninth on the single-season wins list at Ole Miss.
"Proud of Ari to get thru this match and pick up a win," Ole Miss coach Mark Beyers said. "She definitely didn't play her best tennis today, but kept battling and found a way to win. It's never easy after playing nothing but dual matches the entire spring, to all of a sudden play a tournament again."
Hartono will face Washington's Vanessa Wong in the second round Thursday. She also will play with Alexa Bortles in a doubles match against Fresno State's Georgia Lawson and Emma Watson in the first round.
n In related news, Hartono added another honor Wednesday when she was named Intercollegiate Tennis Association National co-Senior Player of the Year.
The Southeastern Conference Player of the Year shared the honor with Vanderbilt senior Astra Sharma. Hartono is the first player in program history to win this award.
"Ari has had a phenomenal year," Beyers said. There are so many great players in college tennis. To be named co-Senior Player of the Year is a tremendous honor for her."
Earlier this year, Hartono became the first player in program history to earn SEC Player of the Year honors finishing 22-2 at No. 1 singles, including 11-2 in the SEC. She helped lead the Rebels to the NCAA Sweet 16 for the ninth time in program history and a final ranking of No. 8, the first year-end top-10 ranking for the program since 1999.
Alabama's Osama advances to Round of 32
Alabama junior Mazen Osama defeated No. 51 Aswin Lizen, 7-6 (4), 6-3, in the first round of the NCAA Singles Championships on Wednesday at the Wake Forest Tennis Complex.
The Cairo, Egypt native earned his first-career win in his first appearance in the tournament and his 10th win against a nationally ranked opponent this year. With the victory, Osama improves to 16-7 in singles play.
Osama will face No. 65 Trevor Johnson of TCU in the Round of 32 on Thursday. He and partner sophomore Edson Ortiz will play the team of No. 25 Torpegaard/Joyce of Ohio State in the first round of the Doubles Tournament on Thursday.
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