May 23, 2010

Courtesy of Southern California

ATHENS, GA. - The No. 5-seeded USC men's tennis team pulled out of a tight doubles point to exact some decisive control in singles action as the Trojans secured a semifinal spot with a 4-0 win over No. 4 seed Ohio State in today's NCAA Quarterfinals. The USC-Ohio State matchup marked a rematch of the 2009 NCAA final, but the Trojans' strong singles surge made this face-off a stronger win for the defending national champs. Now holding a 23-3 overall record, USC will face either top-seeded Virginia or No. 9 seed UCLA in tomorrow's semifinal, set for 4 p.m. ET at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.

To start things off, USC pulled out a dramatic doubles point, getting down a break on all three courts. On court three, Peter Lucassen and Jaak Poldma pulled back even at 6-6, but the Buckeyes answered and took the first match of the point on Kronauge/Novak's 8-6 decision. On court two, USC's Daniel Nguyen and JT Sundling were on serve until a break put Ohio State's Allare/Uzawa up 6-5. The Trojan duo would break right back, however, and Sundling held serve to get USC up 7-6. The Buckeyes leveled it at 7-7, only to see Nguyen/Sundling rattle off a hold with Nguyen at the line and then round out one last clutch break of the Buckeyes to snag the win 9-7.

That put the pressure on court one, where USC's #2 Robert Farah / Steve Johnson was doing battle with #9 Buchanan/Marcan. USC had fallen behind two breaks to stand in a 3-5 hole as the pressure cranked up in the doubles action. The Trojans regrouped, however, breaking back and then getting a hold from Farah to even it back 5-5. Another late break had USC on top 7-6 with Farah going to the line, but the Buckeyes made it interesting and were poised to break. Farah and Johnson shrugged off the tension and got it to deuce. Again, Buchanan/Marcan got to break point, but an ace from Farah and some slick net play from Johnson clamped down and set the Trojans up with the early lead, up 1-0 on Farah/Johnson's 8-6 win - the pair's 16th straight doubles win.

Momentum from that craftily constructed comeback effort in doubles play helped carry the Trojans to a powerful singles start. USC captured the first sets in smooth fashion on five courts, with #89 Jaak Poldma and #82 Daniel Nguyen tag-teaming the No. 3 and 4 singles positions in the Trojans' first steps ahead. With their first sets secured, the rest of the group also made their moves toward an early USC advantage. Nguyen would power up the Trojans to a 2-0 lead on his 6-2, 6-1 win over Balazs Novak on court four to get himself out of the hot Georgia sun first. Although Poldma allowed his opponent to finally claim a game during the second set, the USC junior stayed a step ahead before jumping up a break and then closing things out from the service line to make it 3-0 USC on Poldma's 6-0, 6-3 win over Dino Marcan.

While #3 Steve Johnson fell behind in his second set and a first-set win on court two, Matt Kecki slipped in a marathon tiebreak to go behind in his first set on court six. But the USC control of the match stayed largely in-hand thanks to #121 Peter Lucassen's play on court five and #9 Robert Farah's rally at the No. 1 slot. Farah had fallen behind 2-4 in his second set against #8 Chase Buchanan, but the Trojan senior rattled off the next three games with a pair of breaks to go to the service line up 5-4. Meanwhile, Lucassen was on a similar warpath on court five, as he shook off a break that tied it 4-4 and broke back to go up 5-4 and also serve for the win. Farah got to the clinching point first, however, securing the 4-0 sweep for the Trojans with his 6-1, 6-4 victory over Buchanan. That marked Farah's 14th consecutive singles win, and suspended action on the remaining courts and set up USC with a return trip to the NCAA Semifinals as the Trojans look to defend their 2009 NCAA crown.

NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS
Quarterfinals
[5] USC 4, [4] Ohio State 1
May 23, 2010 - Athens, Ga.
DOUBLES
(1) #2 Farah/Johnson (USC) def. #9 Buchanan/Marcan (OhSt) - 8-6*
(2) Nguyen/Sundling (USC) def. Allare/Uzawa (OhSt) - 9-7
(3) Kronauge/Novak (OhSt) def. Lucassen/Poldma (USC) - 8-6 USC wins doubles point.
Order of finish: 3, 2, 1
SINGLES
(1) #9 Robert Farah (USC) def. #8 Chase Buchanan (OhSt) - 6-1, 6-4*
(2) #3 Steve Johnson (USC) vs. #23 Justin Kronauge (OhSt) - 6-3, 4-5 susp.
(3) #89 Jaak Poldma (USC) def. Dino Marcan (OhSt) - 6-0, 6-3
(4) #83 Daniel Nguyen (USC) def. Balazs Novak (OhSt) - 6-2, 6-1
(5) Matt Kecki (USC) vs. Matt Allare (OhSt) - 6-7 (9), 2-4 susp.
(6) #121 Peter Lucassen (USC) vs. Devin McCarthy (OhSt) - 6-3, 5-4 susp.
Order of finish: 4, 3, 1