May 27, 2012
By Matthew Pearce
ATHENS, Ga. --- Southern California’s Steve Johnson will play for a second consecutive men’s singles championship on Monday after a straight sets victory over the 2010 champion Bradley Klahn of Stanford.
Johnson, the tournament’s top seed, returned to the court for the seventh consecutive day having competed in the team semi-finals and final on Monday and Tuesday before playing in both singles and doubles tournaments the rest of the week.
Johnson and partner Roberto Quiroz were eliminated from the doubles tournament in Saturday’s semi-final leaving the defending champion to compete exclusively in singles play.
In the match-up of the previous two champions, Johnson won the first set after breaking Klahn in the set’s final game, winning the set 6-4.
Klahn himself was trying to hang onto his place in the tournament after his own doubles quarterfinal elimination yesterday. After forcing Johnson to the brink of a tie breaker Klahn lost the second set 7-5, and the match 6-4, 7-5.
“At this point we know each other’s games so well. It’s who can hit those special shots to get the break,” Johnson said. “I played smart. I served really smart. I think that was the key, knowing I could hold easy and take my chances on his serve.”
The win extended Johnson’s undefeated singles streak to 71 matches.
In Monday’s final Johnson will face the third seeded Eric Quigley of Kentucky. Quigley defeated Ohio State’s Blaz Rola in Sunday’s first semi-final in three sets, Quigley has now beaten three seeds in a row after defeating 9-16 seed Artem Ilyushin in the round of 16, fifth seed Henrique Cunha in the quarterfinals and, on Sunday, the 9-16 seeded Rola. Johnson is yet to face a seeded player.
Quigley began slowly as Rola comfortably won the first set 2-6. The third seed, however, bounced back to dominate the second set and force a third.
The third set proved to be the most dramatic as neither individual was able to gain an advantage with the set, and match, going to a tiebreaker. Once in the tiebreaker, however, Quigley returned to dominance as he closed out the match to win 2-6, 6-1, 7-6(1).
“The beginning of the match, I got off to a slow start being down two breaks,” Quigley said. “Once I got my feet on the ground, I started serving and returning well. I was lucky to get a break in the second and then I got some confidence. In the third, I was able to hit some big shots and come through in the tiebreaker in the third set.”
The women’s final will be a meeting of two teammates and doubles partners in Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs of Stanford.
The third seeded Gibbs moved into the final after knocking out the number one seed Allie Will of Florida. Will hadn’t lost a set in the tournament before Sunday.
It took Gibbs three sets to knock out the top seed after the first two sets were split 6-2, 4-6. The third seed comfortably clinched her place in the final with a 6-3 final set victory.
“I thought I played a great first set and then took a little vacation at the beginning of the second set,” Gibbs said. “I think I came out in the third set with a positive attitude and that was really crucial to getting up to a 5-1 lead and then closing it out.”
The 6-2, 4-6, 6-3 defeat of Will set up the all Cardinal final after Burdette’s earlier win. Burdette, the number 5 seed, has still not dropped a set in the tournament after another comfortable straight sets win. She advanced after beating California’s 9-16 seed Zsofi Susanyi 6-2, 6-2.
Burdette and Gibbs will play in two finals on Monday as they also advanced to the doubles final with a 7-6(1), 6-1 victory over the Tennessee duo of Natalie Pluskota and Kata Szekely.
Despite the tight first set, and both having played in their respective semi-finals earlier in the day, Burdette and Gibbs dominated the second set to move forward to the final. As the second seed they have been the only seeded team left in the tournament since the round of 16.
This will be only the seventh time teammates have faced off in the singles final before playing together in the doubles. It is the third time in the women’s draw and the third time overall for Stanford.
“I’m excited for a battle tomorrow. I think there are going to be some great points out there,” Burdette said. “I think there is going to be a lot of sportsmanship, I hope. No matter what there is going to be a battle. I hope we both enjoy it.”
In the final they will play the Georgia duo of Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist. After winning their first set by tiebreaker against UCLA’s Pamela Montez and Courtney Dolehide, the Georgia team fell behind 0-3 in the second set.
Playing on their home court Gullickson and Gilchrist rallied to tie the set at 3-3 before closing the match out for a 7-6(5), 6-4 win.
The men’s draw saw the unseeded Texas Tech duo of Raony Carvalho and Gonzalo Escobar move into the final with a straight sets victory over Mississippi’s Marcel and Chris Thiemann.
Having knocked out the number two seed in the quarterfinals, Carvalho and Escobar carried that momentum into the semi’s as they comfortably dispatched the Thiemann twins 6-4, 6-2.
Top seeded Ohio State duo Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola moved into the final with a thrilling three set victory over Oklahoma’s Costin Paval and Dane Webb.
Despite dropping the first set, the Buckeyes team came back to comfortably win the second. They then rallied from 3-1 down in the third to eventually win 4-6, 6-3, 6-4.