Virginia tops No. 1-seed UCLA 4-3 to claim first national championship
URBANA, Ill. -- Virginia won the first NCAA championship in program history as it defeated UCLA 4-3 in the 2013 NCAA tournament final on Tuesday at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex. The second-seeded Cavaliers (30-0) capped an undefeated season with the victory against the top-seeded Bruins (29-2) and became the first ACC school to win a men's tennis NCAA title.
"I don't think it has set in yet, but it's a great feeling to win this championship," head coach Brian Boland said. "I am just so happy for the players, not just the current players, but the former players as well. They didn't have this moment, but we wouldn't be here today without them. I believe it was just a matter of time. I didn't know when it would happen, but this is a great moment for the University of Virginia."
Mitchell Frank clinched the championship with a come-from-behind 0-6, 6-4, 7-5 victory at No. 3 singles against Adrien Puget in the decisive match. Frank, who was down a break in the third set, saved a team match point before rallying for victory.
"Mitchell Frank deserved this moment because of the hard work he puts into this game," Boland said. "He didn't play his best, but he hung in there and kept fighting. That is who he is, a warrior. That said, no team deserves to lose that match. I feel for UCLA, we have been where they are. They played a great match and put themselves in a position to win, just like we did, and [on Tuesday] it fell our way."
The Cavaliers took a 1-0 lead by winning the doubles point, which proved crucial. At No. 1, Jarmere Jenkins and Mac Styslinger rolled to an 8-2 win against Marcus Giron and Dennis Novikov to give the Cavaliers the edge. Julen Uriguen and Justin Shane rallied from down an early break to top Alex Brigham and Clay Thompson 8-5 at No. 3 doubles to clinch the point.
In singles, each team won three first sets as the match remained close throughout. The Cavaliers extended their lead to 2-0 as Shane cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 5 against Thompson, snapping the Bruin's 14-match win streak. UCLA answered with a pair of victories to draw even in the match 2-2. Giron got the Bruins on the board with a 6-4, 6-4 victory against Alex Domijan at No. 2 and Dennis Mkrtchian followed with a 6-4, 6-3 victory at No. 4 against Styslinger.
Virginia retook the lead 3-2 as Jenkins completed a 7-6(3), 6-3 victory at No. 1 against Novikov. Jenkins, who was named the ITA National Senior Player of the Year earlier in the day, was named the NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player.
"This victory shows the character of this program," Jenkins said. "We had some tough losses the last few years, but we kept getting up and coming back stronger the next year. We beat a really good UCLA team in some tough conditions. To end my dual-match career by winning this championship, it means the world to me."
The final two matches on the courts went to a third set with the Cavaliers needing to win one to claim the national title. At No. 6, Karue Sell rallied for a three-set victory against Uriguen 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 to bring UCLA even 3-3 and set up the dramatic ending on court No. 3.
After losing the first set to Puget 6-0, Frank responded by winning the second set 6-4 to force a decisive final set. Frank went up a break 2-1, only to see Puget break back in the ensuing game. Puget broke Frank again to take a 5-3 lead and served for the match for the Bruins. On championship point 40-30, Puget approached the net to put away a shot that would clinch the title for UCLA, but his foot stepped on the net and the point was awarded to Frank to bring the game to deuce. Frank won the two points that followed to get back on serve.
After Frank held his serve to draw even at five, he broke Puget's serve again to allow him to serve for the match at 6-5. He won the first three points to take a 40-0 lead, but Puget saved the first two championship points for Virginia. On the third championship point, Puget sailed a shot wide that sparked the Cavaliers' celebration of their first NCAA championship.
"I can't say I wasn't thinking about it, that it came down to me," Frank said. "It was a lot easier to be playing that deciding match than it was to be watching it last year. When he got the penalty, I could feel the momentum shift. I started to think that this was our time and fortunately I was able to get it done. To be a part of the first Virginia NCAA championship team is something I will be proud of for the rest of my life."
In addition to NCAA Tournament MVP Jenkins, Frank (No. 3 singles), Jenkins/Styslinger (No. 1 doubles) and Shane/Uriguen (No. 3 doubles) were named to the NCAA All-Tournament team.
Virginia became the 14th school in the 67-year history of the NCAA Men's Tennis Championship to win the title. It is the 20th NCAA championship in Virginia athletics history.