Top D-II Tennis Players Recover From Slow Starts To Advance to Quarters
May 28, 2010
By Marty Gitlin
Special to NCAA.com
OBERLIN, Ohio - Sometimes in a tennis event featuring dozens of matches, one game in one set in one match captures the attention of everyone fortunate enough to be present.
Such a game was played Friday afternoon in the Round of 16 at the NCAA Division III men's individual championships. It spotlighted seniors Andrew Lee of Middlebury (Ver.) College and fifth-seeded Michael Greenberg of Kenyon (Ohio) College.
The players had already sweated through two sets and most of a third, which Lee led, 5-3. But staring in the face of elimination, Greenberg fought off five match points, all on his second serve. As more fans joined the gallery, the game went on and on for about a half hour before Greenberg finally won to remain alive in the match.
But wouldn't you know it? Lee won the next game in four straight points to clinch a 6-2, 1-6, 6-4 victory.
"I knew I was serving well in the match, so I thought I had a good chance to serve it out," Lee said. "(In the previous game) I just wanted to put the ball in the court and give myself a chance to win. It shows what kind of player (Greenberg) is. He wouldn't beat himself."
Middlebury coach David Schwarz had said Thursday that his singles players had never performed better. He could have uttered the same thing Friday - Panthers fourth-seeded junior Andrew Peters also reached the quarterfinals with a 6-2, 6-3 defeat of Sam Sweeney of North Central (Illinois).
Like his teammate, Peters also had to overcome a bit of adversity. After cruising in the first set, he lost the first two games of the second set before rallying to win six of the next seven.
"I wanted to start the second set playing well after winning the first set convincingly," he said. "I knew if I went down two (service) breaks in the second set it would be tough coming back. He had a lot of momentum, but I was able to break him and then I found my game."
Several premier singles players found their games during their matches, including top-seeded Dillon Pottish of Emory College (Virginia), who lost his first set against Mike Mattelson of Vassar College (New York), and then recovered to win the second set before his opponent retired. Pottish will meet Lee in one quarterfinal on Saturday.
Emory teammate Chris Goodwin also dropped a set before emerging with a 6-4, 6-7, 6-3 defeat of Williams (Mass.) College sophomore Nick Lebedoff. Goodwin and Peters will square off on Saturday as well.
Two singles players who cruised and are headed for a quarterfinal showdown are third-seeded John Watts of Washington University (St. Louis) and fifth-seeded Brian Pybas of the University of California-Santa Cruz. Watts, who lost one set 0-6 earlier in the day, manhandled Mark Kahan of Amherst (Mass.), 6-3, 6-0, while Pybas defeated William Zhang of the University of Chicago, 6-2, 6-1.
"The second match was a lot better," Watts said. "I had no nerves. After winning the first match, I got confidence going forward. I like to think I'm playing pretty well right now."
The other singles quarterfinal will pit second-seeded Austin Chafetz of Amherst against Stephen Sullivan of Bowdoin (Maine) College. Both advanced with straight-set victories on Friday.
Pybas, meanwhile, was involved in one of the most impressive doubles performances of the day along with partner Marc Vartabedian. The second-seeded UC-Santa Cruz duo blitzed the University of Chicago twosome of Garrett Brinker and Steve Saltarelli, 6-2, 6-2. Also looking strong were the University of Mary Washington (Virginia) team of Evan Goff and Kaz Murata, who defeated Chafetz and Robert Sorrel, 6-3, 6-4.
Not bad considering that Murata has still not recovered from a pulled thigh muscle and was far from full strength.
"(Murata) is still affected by it," said Mary Washington coach Todd Helbling. "He's not even bending his legs on his serve, but he did great today. I'm especially happy because this is Kaz's third time at nationals in doubles and Evan hasn't had a lot of success and he's an unbelievably hard worker."
So were Lee and Greenberg. And that was in just one game.