OU Bags Ducks, Punches Ticket to Sweet 16
NORMAN, Okla. -- The 11th-seed Oklahoma men’s tennis team used strong singles play to down the Oregon Ducks 4-2 on Saturday in the second round of the 2016 NCAA Championship at the Headington Family Tennis Center in Norman, Okla.
With the win, the Sooners (17-10, 3-2) advance to the round of 16 which begins in Tulsa, Okla., next weekend. This marks the fourth consecutive year that Oklahoma has made an appearance in the sweet 16 and fifth time in head coach John Roddick’s seven-year tenure.
“We competed pretty hard,” Roddick said. “That’s what you have to do. Oregon was definitely feisty. They did the best they could to put us out of position. Overall I thought they probably competed a little better than we did. That’s why the match was so close. A lot of credit goes to them.”
"We have to find a way to get doubles points, but we did what we were supposed to do in singles. Winning five out of six first sets in singles, we did what we needed to do and took care of business.”
— Head Coach John Roddick
The Sooners got off to a sluggish start in Saturday’s chilly conditions, losing matches at numbers one and three doubles to give up the opening point. With the doubles loss, OU trailed the Ducks 1-0 heading to singles and needed to win four of the six matches to advance to Tulsa. They would do just that.
“In doubles we have to get better,” Roddick said. “The bottom line is that will hurt us at some point. We have to find a way to get doubles points, but we did what we were supposed to do in singles. Winning five out of six first sets in singles, we did what we needed to do and took care of business.”
OU shook off the doubles point loss with those five first sets and quickly put Oregon on its heels. OU leveled the match at 1-all when freshman Andre Biro put OU on the board. Biro, OU’s leader in singles wins this season at 16, won the first set easily, giving up just one game and then took the second 7-5 to best UO’s Ethan Young-Smith in straight sets at the six spot.
Not long after Biro’s win, junior Alex Ghilea put the Sooners in the lead with a straight-sets win of his own. Ghilea, ranked No. 61, took both sets from Jayson Amos 6-4 at number four singles and propelled OU to a 2-1 lead.
On the neighboring court, Axel Alvarez was not far behind in his match at number two singles. Alvarez, ranked No. 25, won his first set 6-2 in convincing fashion, but fell behind in the second. The senior rallied from down an early break to force a tiebreaker, but Oregon’s Simon Stevens grabbed a 6-4 lead and had two match points in the extra frame. Alvarez defended both and went on to win the breaker 9-7 to take the match. That win pushed OU to a 3-1 lead and the Sooners needed just one more win to advance.
Oregon cut into the Oklahoma lead with a win at number three singles, but OU was in strong positions on both remaining courts. With junior Florin Bragusi up 5-1 in the third at number five singles, junior Andrew Harris was back to receive up 5-4 in the second and 1-0 in sets on Daan Maasland at the top spot. Harris, who won the first set 13-11 in a marathon breaker, broke Maasland’s serve and clinched a 4-2 win for Oklahoma.
OU will take on No. 6 seed Wake Forest on Friday, May 20 at 7 p.m. CT at the Michael D. Case Center in Tulsa, Okla., in the round of 16. OU has played the Demon Deacons twice already this year, losing 5-2 at home in an indoor match in January and then 4-1 in the first round of the 2016 ITA National Indoor Championship. Harris did not play singles in either of those matches.
The Sooners are 14-10 all-time in the NCAA tournament and have advanced to the final match in each of the last two seasons. Roddick is happy for the extra time to prepare his team.
“We have a long week and tennis is a funny game and it doesn’t matter how you feel today or tomorrow, because it can change quickly,” Roddick said. “We have a lot of things to work on and we have to get playing the right way.”
For more information on Oklahoma Men’s Tennis, follow the team on Twitter at @OU_MTennis.
2. Ghilea/Papa vs. Maasland/Stevens - 6-5, DNF
3. Thomas Laurent def. #82 Spencer Papa - 1-6, 6-3, 6-3