ATHENS, Ga. - Virginia men's tennis senior Thai-Son Kwiatkowski was crowned the 2017 NCAA Men's singles champion after defeating North Carolina's William Blumberg 6-4, 7-6 (5) in the final on Monday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia.
This is the fourth time a Cavalier has won the title with Kwiatkowski joining Somdev Devvarman (2007, 2008) and Ryan Shane (2015) as an NCAA singles champion. It also comes less than one week since Kwiatkowski helped lead the Cavaliers to the 2017 NCAA team championship.
As an American player, Kwiatkowski's championship also means he will earn an automatic bid into the main draw of the 2017 U.S. Open.
"It still hasn't sunk in yet, but I have so many emotions right now," Kwiatkowski said. "I'm so happy with how I competed today. There were so many adversity moments before and after the match. Before the match, I was almost crying with how nervous I was. Now I am happy and sad because I know that as soon as I get to the locker room and I take this shirt off, I'm not going to put it on and play in the orange and blue anymore. It's a big, weird moment for me."
The two players traded breaks in the first set, putting the scoring back on serve until Kwiatkowski broke Blumberg to go up 5-4 and then held serve to win the first set, 6-4. In the second set, both players again traded breaks in the middle of the set, but it finished in a 6-6 deadlock, forcing a tiebreaker. The two players battled back-and-forth to a 5-5 tie with Kwiatkowski winning the final two points to take the tiebreaker and win the match 6-4, 7-6 (5).
"I was very happy that last return went in," Kwiatkowski said. "I tried to be very respectful to the UNC guys because Will had an incredible tournament. As a freshman to make it to the finals of the tournament and be MVP of the team tournament, it's very impressive. The match could have easily gone his way today. He is very well coached. They have a loving team and that's why they're so successful in the team tournament because they have such a powerful love for each other. That's credit to Sam Paul. For Will to be a freshman and lead his team like that and then come out here after the heartbreaking loss in the finals and crushing most of the guys he played is very impressive. I wanted to be respectful after the match and shake everyone's hand before I laid down on the court and really absorbed the moment."
This was the third time this season Blumberg, the ACC Freshman of the Year, Most Outstanding Player of the NCAA team tournament and the ITA National Rookie of the Year, and Kwiatkowski had faced one another. The two played one another last week in the final of the NCAA team championship with Blumberg winning 6-3, 6-2 as well as prevailing in the ACC Championship semifinals, while their meeting at ITA National Team Indoors was abandoned in the third set before completion.
"I really wanted to get that win for the team when we played last week for sure," Kwiatkowski said. "It would have been a big boost and I wanted to do it for my team. Thank Goodness the rest of the guys picked me up because Will really took it to me when we went indoors last week. Today I felt that the coaches gave me a really good game plan, one that was different than what we had before. I just went out and tried to fight as hard as I could. I tried to play one point at a time and it's pretty amazing what happened out there. "
This was the third time Kwiatkowski played in the NCAA Singles tournament, but it was his first trip to the finals. Kwiatkowski ends his career having won an NCAA singles championship, three-straight NCAA team championships, including being named the MVP of the 2016 tournament, an ITA National Team Indoors title, three ACC Championships as well as winning the singles and doubles titles last season at the ITA All-American. He finishes his collegiate career with a 136-24 record in singles and a 95-21 mark in doubles.
"I have had so many demons in my life and it's unbelievable to have this moment. This moment is only possible because of my coaches, my teammates, my parents, and countless other people. Just to have this success would not feel good at all if I was doing this by myself, but it feels really good in this moment because I get to share it with them. They care about me and that means everything."