COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Dominic Inglot (London, England) and Michael Shabaz (Fairfax, Va.) advanced to the final of the 2009 NCAA Doubles Championship with a three-set semifinal win Sunday at the Mitchell Tennis Center. The Cavalier team rallied from losing the first set to top Clay Donato and Taylor Fogleman of North Carolina 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Inglot and Shabaz become the first Cavalier team to reach the NCAA Doubles final and will play No. 2 seed John-Patrick Smith and Davey Sandgren of Tennessee for the championship on Monday. The win was also the duo’s 40th doubles win of the season, tying the school record set earlier this year by Sanam Singh (Chandigarh, India) and Houston Barrick (Brentwood, Tenn.).
In the first set, the Cavalier team got out to a strong start, breaking Donato’s serve in the first game. They held that one break advantage at 4-3 in the first set before the Tar Heel team won three straight games, breaking serve twice, to take the opening set. Before the second set began, a storm front rolled through College Station and caused a two-hour rain delay.
“I think the rain delay definitely worked in our favor,” said Shabaz. “They broke us twice in a row, including to win the first set, so they had a lot of momentum. The delay gave us a chance to think and regroup and cooled off their play a little. But that is how things go sometimes.”
The teams traded breaks in the first two games of the second set and then remained on serve until 4-4 in the set. In the ninth game, Inglot and Shabaz hit some big returns to break Fogleman’s serve and take a 5-4 lead. Shabaz held in the ensuing game to bring the Cavalier team even and force a decisive set.
“They are a great returning team, so we knew we weren’t going to be able to hold serve easily,” said Shabaz. “When we broke at 4-all and had a chance to serve for the second set, we knew we had to capitalize on that chance and even it up.”
The third set remained close, with both teams holding serve in the first six games. At 3-3, Inglot and Shabaz were able to break Fogleman’s serve for the third time in the match to take a 4-3 lead. In the ensuing game, Shabaz faced a break point on his serve at 30-40, but hit a service winner to get to deuce. The Cavalier team won the next two points to take a 5-3 lead in the final set. After Donato held for UNC, the match was on Inglot’s racquet. The senior used his big serve to hold easily and send the Virginia team into the final.
“In the third set, Dom really played well,” said Shabaz. “He got his first serve in and was able to hold easily. I had to battle to hold in my games, but was able to pull them out. In the game at 3-3, we were able to put together a good game and get the break we needed.”
The match was the fourth time the teams had played in the last two months. Inglot and Shabaz’s win tied the season series between the teams as Donato and Fogleman had won two of the first three meetings.
“It is always tough to play a team that many times,” said Shabaz. “You know each other, your strengths and weaknesses, so well. We are happy to be able to win this one and have a chance to play for a championship tomorrow.”
The final between Inglot/Shabaz and Smith/Sandgren will take place at 10 a.m. CT on Monday. (There will be no television coverge, live or delay, of the NCAA Individual Championships this season). The meeting will be the second meeting of the year between the teams. Inglot and Shabaz defeated the Volunteer duo 8-5 in the final of the UVa Ranked Plus One Invitational in Charlottesville on Sept. 28.
“We played the Tennessee pair last semester,” said Inglot. “Fortunately we won, but I think we were playing different sides then. I was playing on the ‘Ad’ and Mike was playing on the deuce. It’s going to be a little different. I think it might help us – the fact that we have beaten them before. But of course, this is a national championship match, so anything really goes. We know roughly what to expect from that last match. We’re going to go out there, do our best, and try to stick to the game tactics we are going to go over tonight. We kind of hoped we would be here in the finals of the team championship and it was disappointing not to be. This is going to be a chance for us to make up for that.”
On Sunday, the run of Sanam Singh in the NCAA Singles Championship came to an end. Singh fell in the semifinals to No. 9-16 seed Steven Moneke of Ohio State 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.
Moneke came out strong to take the opening set 6-1. The second set began like the first, with Moneke going up a break and was up 4-2 before Singh rallied to win four straight games to take the set 6-4. Moneke opened the third set strong, going up two breaks with a 3-0 lead. Singh answered to win the next two games and had six break points in a seven-deuce game in the sixth game to draw even before Moneke held for 4-2. The Buckeye held off Singh to take the final set 6-3 and advance to the final.
“I had a very rough start to the match,” said Singh. “Give him credit, he kept the pressure on. He makes a lot of balls. Steven keeps the ball in play a lot and I just had a bad start and couldn’t really get myself into the match. I was down 2-4, 15-40, held a good game and then kind of got into the match. I had a terrible start to the third set again. I was obviously playing from behind in the match, but he kept the pressure on me and I couldn’t get that crucial break in the match at 2-3 in the third. I could have played much better. He stayed in the match the whole time and didn’t lose too much focus. I just didn’t have enough first serves today. Nothing was really clicking. The only thing going for me today was my heart. I told myself, ‘I’m not going to give up. I’m going to keep playing.’ I probably hit 15 percent on first serves. I didn’t play that well, but that’s something that I have to fight through. I was playing my best, but he came out on top.”