Friday, May 28, 2021

Riffice adds NCAA title; Brooksby qualifies for French

   Sam Riffice was supposed to be worn out physically and mentally after helping Florida win its first NCAA men's team title last week.
   Indeed, he often struggled in this week's singles competition. Riffice survived, though, to become the third Gator to win the men's title and the ninth man in this century to earn both crowns. He received an automatic wild card in the main draw of the U.S. Open, Aug. 30 to Sept. 12 in Flushing Meadows, N.Y.
   The sixth-seeded Riffice, a junior who grew up in Roseville, Calif., in the Sacramento area, topped second-seeded Daniel Rodrigues of South Carolina 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 today in the winner's adopted hometown of Orlando, Fla.
   Riffice lost the opening set for the third time in his six matches. He also was extended to three sets in the semifinals against top-seeded Liam Draxl of Kentucky.
   Riffice, who fell in the second round of doubles, joined Mark Merklein (1994) and Jeff Morrison (1999) as the only Florida men to win the NCAA singles championship.
   The last man to earn the NCAA Triple Crown (team, singles and doubles titles in the same year) was Matias Boeker of Georgia in 2001.
   Rodrigues, a sophomore from Portugal, nearly became the second consecutive Gamecock to capture the NCAA singles title. Paul Jubb of Great Britain claimed the 2019 crown; last year's tournament was canceled because of the pandemic.
   Third-seeded Emma Navarro of Virginia won the women's singles title, outclassing second seed and defending champion Estela Perez-Somaribba of Miami 6-3, 6-1.
   Both doubles finals were decided by two points.
   Third-seeded Adam Walton and Pat Harper of Tennessee edged unseeded Finn Murgett and Tad Maclean of Auburn 7-6 (5), 2-6 [13-11]. Also, fourth-seeded Makenna Jones and Elizabeth Scotty of North Carolina topped unseeded Kylie Collins and Lulu Sun of Texas 7-6 (3), 4-6 [10-8]. 
   Sun, a freshman from Switzerland, won a dramatic three-set singles match last week to give the Longhorns a 4-3 victory over Pepperdine for their first women's team title since 1995.
   French Open — Jenson Brooksby, who has a history of coming back from the brink of defeat, did it again.
   The 20-year-old resident of Carmichael, Calif., in the Sacramento region, saved three match points in a 6-7 (5), 7-6 (2), 6-4 victory over Evan Furness, a 22-year-old French wild card and one of the smallest players in men's professional tennis at 5-foot-7 (1.70 meters) and 145 pounds (66 kilograms), in the final round of qualifying in Paris. The battle lasted 3 hours, 22 minutes.
   Brooksby, who last month became the first man in five years to win back-to-back Challengers on hardcourts and clay, extended his winning streak to 13 matches.
   Brooksby, ranked No. 163 only five months after turning pro, will play in the singles main draw of a Grand Slam tournament for the third time and first outside the United States. He lost to John Millman in the first round of the 2018 U.S. Open after receiving an automatic wild card for winning the USTA Boys 18 National Championships and reached the second round of the 2019 U.S. Open as a qualifier. In the latter tournament, he stunned 2010 Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych in the first round and led by a set and 4-0 in a four-set loss to 17th-seeded Nikoloz Basilashvili. 
   Also today, No. 9 seed Mackenzie McDonald, a 26-year-old product of Piedmont in the San Francisco Bay Area, defeated Marco Trungelliti of Argentina 6-4, 6-4.
   McDonald did not drop a set in his three qualifying matches. He advanced to the second round of the main draw at Roland Garos last fall as a direct entrant, losing to second seed and eventual champion Rafael Nadal 6-1, 6-0, 6-3, and was the only American man to reach the round of 16 in the Australian Open in February. 
   On the women's side, Lara Arruabarrena of Spain eliminated Carol Zhao (Stanford, 2014-16) of Canada 6-4, 6-2.
   ATP Tour — In the Belgrade (Serbia) doubles final, Jonathan Erlich, 44, of Israel and Andrei Vasilevski of Belarus defeated Andre Goransson (University of California, Berkeley, 2014-17) of Sweden and Rafael Matos of Brazil 6-4, 6-1. Both teams were unseeded.
   Erlich and Vasilevski won all three of their matches before the final in match tiebreakers, including 13-11 in the semifinals. 
   Erlich, who reached a career-high No. 5 in doubles in 2008, won the 2017 Aptos, Calif., Challenger with Neal Skupski of Great Britain. Also in 2017, Goransson claimed the first of his seven ATP Challenger doubles titles in Tiburon, Calif., with former Cal teammate Florian Lakat of France.  

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