NORMAN – The 16th-ranked University of Oklahoma men’s tennis team punched its ticket to the 2017 ITA National Indoor Championships with an emphatic 4-0 sweep of No. 17 Illinois on Sunday inside the Gregg Wadley Indoor Tennis Pavilion at the Headington Family Tennis Center.
In front of another lively crowd, the Sooners quickly won the doubles point and then took the first three singles finished to take a 4-0 win in under two hours. Oklahoma, one of 16 host sites for the 2017 ITA Kick-Off Weekend, also took down No. 19 Michigan 4-1 on Saturday.
“It was a great team effort,” head coach Nick Crowell said. “We got contributions from all throughout the lineup in both singles and doubles. It was just a great weekend. We got a big turnout and the energy was amazing. I liked how our guys stepped up in both matches and got out to early leads. Today we were able to just keep the momentum on every court and the guys stayed aggressive and pressured their opponents.”
Doubles went quickly on Saturday. Seniors and fellow Romania natives Alex Ghilea and Florin Bragusi raced out to a 2-0, one-break lead and never looked back in their match against Aron Hiltzik and Noe Khlif at the number two spot. They won 6-2 and were the first match finished.
The doubles clinch came from court one where senior Andrew Harris and junior Spencer Papa teamed to beat Gui Gomes and Alex Jesse 6-3 in a match that saw just one break. The Sooners improved to 4-0 this season when winning the doubles point.
Oklahoma didn’t let up in singles. They won all six first sets and quickly took control in the seconds. Harris gave the Sooners a 2-0 lead when he finished Aleks Vukic in straight sets 6-3, 6-1 at number one. The Melbourne, Australia, native controlled the match from the beginning, overpowering Vukic and dictating the points.
Bragusi put OU one point from a trip to Indoors when he finished off a dominant 6-0, 6-1 win over Zeke Clark at the number four spot.
“It feels really good,” Bragusi said of earning a spot at Indoors. “I personally really like that tournament so I wanted to experience it one last time. I was just more aggressive. I came to the net and I served pretty well, especially in my second serve. I usually don’t do that, but I liked coming in after my second serve and that helped me be aggressive.”
The clinching point came on court six where freshman Jochen Bertsch rolled over Noe Khlif in straight sets 6-1, 6-1. Bertsch improves to 3-0 in singles this season with wins at the four, five and six positions. When Bertsch clinched, Ghilea had just taken a first-set tiebreaker on court four and Papa was in control in the second set at number two. Those matches went unfinished.
“These are really important wins for us, especially this year,” Harris said. “A big thing is just the experience for the new freshmen. Just getting them more matches and more confidence. If they can keep playing well and consistently then we have six guys who can go very well this year.”
With two wins this weekend, Oklahoma advanced to the ITA National Indoor Championships in Charlottesville, Va., Feb. 17-20. The Sooners won their first ever Indoor title in 2015. Ghilea, Harris, Papa and Bragusi were all on that squad with Ghilea being named the tournament’s most outstanding player.
The Sooners are back in action this weekend as they travel to Fayetteville, Arkansas to take on the No. 25 Razorbacks on Saturday, Feb. 4 in a match scheduled for a 6 p.m. CT start.
For more information on Oklahoma men’s tennis, follow the team on twitter @OU_MTennis.