ATHENS, Ga. – On the third day of the 2010 NCAA Individual Championships, the Virginia men’s tennis team had one singles player and one doubles team advance to the quarterfinals. Michael Shabaz (Fairfax, Va.) advanced in singles and teamed with Drew Courtney (Clifton, Va.) to advance in doubles.
Shabaz is in the doubles quarterfinals for the second consecutive year after winning last year’s title with Dominic Inglot. On Friday, he and Courtney topped Dennis Nevolo and Marek Czerwinski of Illinois 6-3, 3-6, 6-4. The Cavalier duo broke serve twice in the first set to take it 6-3. The Illini team returned the favor in the second set to force a third set. The final set was tied at 1-all with Czerwinski serving at deuce. Courtney ripped a cross-court forehand winner that caught the line. The Illinois team called the ball out and was immediately over-ruled. The Cavaliers won the ensuing point for what turned out to be the only service break of the third set. The following changeover lasted over five minutes as the Illinois players continued to argue the overrule call and fruitlessly petitioned for the point to be replayed. After the delay, Courtney and Shabaz made sure that the Illini wouldn’t have a chance to get back on serve, losing just one point on their serve the rest of the match to serve out the win. They will play top-seeded Henrique Cunha and Reid Carleton of Duke in the quarterfinals. By reaching the quarterfinals, Shabaz becomes a two-time doubles All-American while Courtney becomes an All-American for the first time in his career. He is the 11th different Cavalier player to be an All-American.
“It is special to be an All-American, especially as just a sophomore,” said Courtney. “Michael had a great run in this tournament last year and it is fun to be able to play in it with him this year. We had a good win today. There was the big turning point when we got the overrule at 1-all in the third. We took advantage of getting that call and just held serve the rest of the way.”
In singles, Shabaz, a 9-16 seed, topped seventh-seeded Chase Buchanan of Ohio State 6-2, 7-6(3) to reach the quarterfinals for the first time in his career. He joins Brian Vahaly, Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh as the only Cavaliers in history to reach the quarterfinals. It also marks the fifth consecutive year that Virginia has had a player in the singles quarterfinals, the longest such streak since a six-year run by Stanford from 1997-2002.
Shabaz used two breaks of service to cruise through the first set 6-2. He went up a break midway through the second set, but Buchanan broke back as Shabaz was serving for the match at 5-4. The set went to a tiebreaker, which Shabaz won 7-3 to close out his victory.
“I am just trying to take the tournament one match at time,” said Shabaz. “You just try to put yourself in the best position to have a chance to win the tournament and see how it goes. Today I played Chase, who I know pretty well. I had a good first set, but in the second he was able to break me when I serving for the match. In the breaker I was able to hit some big serves and big forehands and was able to have it go my way.”
Singh, also a 9-16 seed, fell his round of 16 matchup with top-seeded Cunha, 6-3, 7-6. In the first set, Singh couldn’t take advantage on his three break-point chances while Cunha capitalized on his only break point opportunity. Singh jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the second set only to have Cunha break right back. The players held serve for the remainder of the set to send it to a tiebreak. Singh jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the breaker, but Cunha rebounded and rallied to take it 8-6 to close out the match.
Action continues Saturday with the quarterfinals of singles and doubles. The tournaments conclude on Monday.