May 18, 2012
By Matthew Pearce
ATHENS, Ga. --- The first day of men’s action at the 2012 NCAA Tournament provided plenty of high quality tennis without any great upsets as most of the top seeds advanced in comfortable fashion.
The top seeded USC Trojans continued their quest for tournament perfection as they swept aside the 16 seed Illinois 4-0.
The Trojans have yet to drop a point in the tournament winning all three games they have played 4-0.
Southern California clinched the doubles point with an 8-6 victory over the Illinois pair of Roy Kalmanovich and Dennis Nevolo. Having taken the doubles point the top seed easily finished off Illinois as Steve Johnson, Ray Sarmiento and Emilio Gomez each recorded singles victories.
“We thought we had some really good match-ups,” USC head coach Peter Smith said. “That’s as good as I’ve seen (Ray Sarmiento) play all year. And (Steve Johnson) was Stevie. Stevie gets going and it’s a train that’s hard to get out of the way.”
In the other 9 a.m. start the eighth seeded Duke Blue Devils eased past Baylor 4-0 on the back of a dominant doubles display. Duke got doubles wins from David Holland and Fred Saba before Raphael Hemmeler and Torsten Wietoska finished off the point.
“I think we really set the tone in doubles,” Duke head coach Ramsey Smith said. “We came out with extraordinary energy and got up big on two and three. That really set the tone and gave us a lot of momentum going into singles.”
The Blue Devils wrapped up the victory with singles wins by Jason Tahir, Chris Mengel and Henrique Cunha.
Hosts and second seed Georgia became the only Southeastern Conference team to advance to the quarter finals defeating the 15th seeded North Carolina Tar Heels 4-0.
The Bulldogs won the doubles point before convincing singles victories from Daniel Pasha, Hernus Pieters and KU Singh saw Georgia advance to the quarterfinals. Both Singh and Pieters won their matches 6-3, 6-1 while Pasha won by a score of 6-2, 6-2.
“Traditionally we’ve always had great depth and that’s a staple. We don’t really drop off a whole lot. That’s one of our strengths this year,” Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz said. “As we go forward, the top five teams in the country are pretty much the same way. I like our guys.”
Despite dropping a point 5 seed Ohio State never looked in trouble against the 12th seeded Florida Gators in a 4-1 win.
The Buckeyes easily won the doubles point receiving 8-3 and 8-1 victories before a three set victory from Connor Smith clinched the singles point for the Buckeyes. Smith fought back from a first set deficit to win the match 5-7, 6-1, 6-0.
Ohio State win coupled with Illinois’ defeat means the Buckeyes will be the only representative from the Big 10 in the quarter finals as well as the only team from the northern United States.
“It’s trying times because when you get outside in the Midwest in March and February, you’re dealing with 25 mph winds,” Ohio State head coach Ty Tucker said. “We’re trying to run them and do everything possible we can to get them ready for the heat that we will face here.”
The Buckeyes will meet the fourth seed UCLA Bruins in the quarterfinals after the Bruins dispatched 13 seed Ole Miss 4-1.
UCLA bounced back from dropping the doubles point to sweep the singles and secure its place in the next round. The singles victories came from Adrien Puget, Marcos Giron, Dennis Novikov and Dennis Mkrtchian.
Mkrtchian clinched the victory for the Bruins with a 6-4, 6-7(4), 6-2 win over Ole Miss’ Chris Thiemann.
“Losing that doubles point really put us in a deep hole,” UCLA head coach Billy Martin said. “We had been really strong at 4, 5 and 6 all year and they came through for us, especially 4 and 5. They got us back on the board and gave us some confidence.”
11th seeded Stanford provided the day’s first seeding upset defeating the sixth seed Kentucky Wildcats 4-1 on the McWhorter Courts.
The Cardinal bounced back from losing the doubles point to sweep the singles contests getting victories from Bradley Klahn, Ryan Thacher, Daniel Ho and John Morrissey.
After splitting the first two sets with Kentucky’s Tom Jomby, Morrissey rallied back winning the match 6-1, 3-6, 5-4. The match was decided on a default after the umpire ruled a code violation.
"I went back in after the doubles, which was not close. They focused and came out. I said 'try to find out a next gear. That other gear you don't think you have. You find it, and let's go with it.' Obviously the guys did,” Stanford head coach John Whitlinger said. “I can't say enough about how we competed."
Meeting the Cardinal in the quarter finals will be the third seed Virginia Cavaliers who swept 14 seed California 4-0 in the Henry Feild Stadium.
Georgia native Jarmere Jenkins and his partner Drew Courtney got the Cavaliers off to the perfect start, helping them on their way to winning the doubles point. Singles victories from Alex Domijan, Justin Shane and Mitchell Frank moved Virginia into Sunday’s quarter finals.
"We played a great match. Obviously I was thrilled with how we came (out) in doubles. We worked really hard in that over the last couple months,” Virginia head coach Brian Boland said. “I think we're playing at an extremely high level so that's certainly helpful for us. We did a decent job of carrying that into the first sets of singles."
Like USC the Cavaliers are perfect in the NCAA tournament having won three 4-0 matches.
Despite Tulsa taking the doubles point to threaten the first real upset of the day seventh seeded Pepperdine was able to pull out a 4-1 victory on the strength of their singles performances.
The Tulsa doubles pairing of Grant Ive and Tristan Jackson were able to clinch the lead for Tulsa as they won the third and final doubles game 9-8 after winning the tie breaker.
In the singles action three of the games went to three sets with the Pepperdine pair of Finn Tearney and Jenson Turner winning the two that were completed. Mousheg Hovhannisyan and Alex Llompart were the other Pepperdine players to record singles victories.
Pepperdine will face the host Georgia Bulldogs in the quarterfinals on Sunday.
The official attendance for the second day of the tournament and first day of men’s action was 2,304.