Champions Crowned on Historic Day

November 9, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Conn. — For the first time in the history of the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, the men’s and women’s teams from the same school captured the doubles title as Stanford was able to accomplish this feat at this year’s event, hosted by Yale University, November 5-8 at the Cullman-Heyman Tennis Center in New Haven, Conn.

In addition, with USC’s Steve Johnson and Cal’s Jana Juricova defeating a pair of Yellow Jackets in the men’s and women’s singles final, it marked the first time since 2001 both sets of singles and doubles champions all hailed from the same state (California).

Ironically, 2001 was also the last and only time that the men’s and women’s champions were both representing the same school, a quest that Irina Falconi and Guillermo Gomez of Georgia Tech were unable to accomplish today as both players lost in last set tiebreakers.

Falconi was also seeking to become the first woman since 1985 to capture the singles titles at both the Riviera/ITA All-American Championship and the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship.

The singles match, which will no doubt be remembered for quite some time, was the matchup between fifth-seeded Steve Johnson from USC and fifth-ranked Guillermo Gomez of Georgia Tech. The match literally went back an forth for the full three-set tiebreak match, with both players continually battling one another on the game-changing breakpoints.

“He was just incredible on the breakpoints but I kept my composure out there and I played a really good tiebreaker in the third set”, said Johnson. “I was just really tired of losing tiebreakers after losing the first tiebreaker, two tiebreakers at All-American – I knew had to get one.”

For Gomez, it was a rematch opportunity to exact revenge on Johnson, who downed him in a three-set match in the 2009 NCAA Singles Championship. “I played Steve in the NCAA’s but I had some problems physically”, said Gomez.

However, Gomez wasn’t the only one attempting to dish out revenge as Guillermo upset Johnson’s doubles partner, No. 3 Robert Farah in yesterday’s quarterfinals. “I got my revenge on J.P. for beating Rob [Farah] at All-American and now I will do the same for Guillermo because nobody beats two Trojans”, Johnson said yesterday.

Johnson, who was recently selected by the USTA to represent the United States in the fourth annual Master’U BNP Paribas, an international collegiate competition held December 9-14 in Poitiers, France has made huge strides since last year’s freshman campaign.

“I haven’t won a singles championship since juniors so it felt really good to get back on track”, said Johnson. “The hard work I put in really paid off here with lots of time in the gym over the summer — I feel so fresh I could easily play some more.”

Also selected to the US team on the women’s side was second-seeded Irina Falconi of Georgia Tech. The 2009 Riviera/ITA All-American singles champion had outscored her last three opponents, an astounding 36-5 going into today’s match against her toughest challenge in California’s Jana Juricova, another sophomore ranked fourth in the Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings.

The two were close to meeting in the finals at the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships but Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson, ranked No. 3 was able to hold off Juricova in the semifinals. This time it was Juricova who was able to hold off a top-ranked opponent as the two fought to the end of each set, including a tie-break last set.

The women’s doubles final was as equally entertaining as the singles matches, also ending on a tie-break set. For the second time this season and third in the past two, Natalie Pluskota and Caitlin Whoriskey of the No. 1 Vols and Hilary Barte and Lindsay Burdette of the No. 2 Cardinal went head-to-head, with each team having claimed a win.

“We were in the exact same situation that happened at the NCAA’s when we were down 6-5, serving for the tiebreak but we ended up winning that as well”, said Burdette. “That gave us a boost of confidence like here we go again.

“We’ve played together a lot more since All-American causing us to be much more in sync”, said Burdette referring to their recent loss to Tennessee, who went on to capture the 2009 Riviera/ITA All-American doubles title. “Both teams play a similar game style so it’s like we’re playing ourselves. I think it comes down to a matter of execution because it’s not rocket science.”

The other end of Stanford’s historic doubles sweep was No. 3 Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher, the only seeded team to make it past the quarterfinals. Their victory over Duke’s Reid Carleton and Henrique Cunha was the only finals matchup to not feature a tiebreaker. The Blue Devils loss snapped the D’Novo/ITA All-American Consolation Champions’ 11 match winning streak.

These championships featured 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.

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