May 24, 2019 10:28:39 AM
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Facing the nation's top-ranked doubles pair in the 2019 NCAA Doubles quarterfinals on Thursday night at the USTA National Campus, Mississippi State's Niclas Braun and Giovanni Oradini faced a tall task if they wanted to accomplish a feat no other Bulldog tandem had done in 25 years.
The 32nd-ranked Bulldog duo did just that and more, ousting Baylor's top-ranked pair of Jimmy Bendeck and Sven Lah in straight sets to finish out a day that also saw top-ranked Nuno Borges advance to a third straight appearance in the NCAA Singles semifinals. With their win, Braun and Oradini became the second MSU team to reach the NCAA Doubles semifinals in program history, joining Laurent Miquelard and Joc Simmons who won the national title in 1994.
Borges began another busy day for the Bulldogs by taking a hard-fought battle against sixth-ranked and fifth-seeded Brandon Holt of USC for his 30th consecutive singles victory. The match was back-and-forth for much of the first stanza, until Borges broke Holt at 30-40 to take a 5-3 lead. Holt would break back, cutting the deficit to 5-4. Both players held serve on the next two games, with Borges leading 6-5. A netted forehand by Holt decided the set, handing Borges a 7-5 decision.
In the second, Borges came out firing, taking the first three games and eventually claiming a commanding 4-1 lead. The Trojan would break back to cut the deficit to 4-3. That would not faze the now-five-time All-American Borges, who would break Holt to lead 5-3 and serve for the match.
The three-time SEC Player of the Year would finish the job, acing the USC standout at love to punch his third straight ticket to the singles semis, where he will face a familiar foe in TCU's fourth-ranked and third-seeded Alex Rybakov.
Match time for the top-5 battle is slated for 4 p.m. ET live on the Tennis Channel. The two players have met three times in 2019, with the Horned Frog taking the first meeting in Arizona in a January tournament before their match went unfinished at the 2019 ITA National Team Indoor Championship in February in Chicago. Most recently, Borges bested Rybakov 6-1, 6-4 in the Bulldogs' Round of 16 match vs. TCU in Starkville on May 11.
Borges is the first men's collegiate player to reach three-straight NCAA Singles semifinals since Virginia's Somdev Devvarman (2006-08).
"I felt I had momentum at the end of the first set, so I just trusted that," Borges said. "I stayed tough, I ended up getting a break in a crucial moment. I took that into the second set. I finished on a good one, so I'm happy about that. Every match here is hard, and I have to learn every single match. I'm very happy to have gotten this far again, and being able to do so three years in a row is amazing. It just shows how hard I've worked all year."
In State's second singles match of the day, 61st-ranked Giovanni Oradini capped off his remarkable run to the quarterfinals as an unseeded player, dropping a tough 7-6(4), 6-3 decision to South Carolina's fifth-ranked and fourth-seeded Paul Jubb.
The tiebreaker was as back-and-forth as the first set itself, featuring four lead changes. After Oradini knotted up the breaker at 4-all, Jubb took the final three points to claim the set.
In the second set, Jubb took a quick 3-0 lead before Oradini surged back to knot things up at 3-all. Jubb would go on to claim the last three games, taking the set and match to advance to the singles semifinals.
Arguably the biggest victory of the day came in doubles action, with State's 32nd-ranked tandem of Niclas Braun and Giovanni Oradini upending Baylor's top-ranked and top-seeded pair of Jimmy Bendeck and Sven Lah 6-4, 6-3.
Braun and Oradini's semifinal bout will feature an All-SEC battle, as the Bulldog pair will face Alabama's 11th-ranked team of Patrick Kaukovalta and Mazen Osama. The Crimson Tide duo reached the semifinals with a 6-3, 7-6(5) victory over Wichita State's 35th-ranked Murkel Dellien and Marius Frosa in the quarters. Match time is slated for no earlier than 6 p.m. today.
To close out the night, State's third-ranked senior pair of Borges and Strahinja Rakic dropped a hard-fought, three-set decision to Tennessee's sixth-ranked Timo Stodder and Preston Touliatos, a 5-8 alphabetical seed.
Borges and Rakic ended their doubles career together as the winningest doubles pair in program history, amassing 57 victories. A staggering 43 of those wins came over the last two seasons that included back-to-back runs to the NCAA Doubles quarterfinals and a No. 1 national ranking to end 2018. Rakic's overall career came to end Thursday night as well. The two-time All-American and three-time All-SEC standout amassed 131 total victories for the Bulldogs in four seasons while helping MSU to three NCAA Round of 16 appearances and two SEC Tournament crowns in four years.