Courtney and Shabaz Reach NCAA Doubles Semifinals
ATHENS, Ga. – The Virginia doubles team of Michael Shabaz (Fairfax, Va.) and Drew Courtney (Clifton, Va.) advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA Doubles Championship during play on Quarterfinal Saturday at the Dan Magill Tennis Center. The duo upset the top-seeded team of Henrique Cunha and Reid Carleton of Duke 6-4, 6-7(6), 6-3.
In the first set, the Cavalier team had a break point opportunity on Cunha’s serve at 2-2 when the match was halted for an hour due to rain. After the break, they capitalized on that chance to pick up what turned out to be the only service break of the first set.
“It was a little weird sitting through the delay with that chance upcoming,” said Courtney. “We were sitting in the locker room and just wanted to get out there and play that point. When we finally were able to get back out there, we won that point and that was a turning point in the match.”
After taking the first set 6-4, Courtney and Shabaz continued their strong serving in the second set. But the Duke duo served well themselves and with no breaks either way, the set went to a tiebreaker. In the breaker, the Cavalier team had two match points, leading 6-4, but the Blue Devils rallied to win four straight points and take the breaker, 8-6, to force a decisive set.
“Mentally, we needed to stay focused after the breaker,” said Courtney. “Obviously we were disappointed not to close it out in two sets. But we realized that we had to come out with a lot of energy and focus to start the third, and we were able to get the early break.”
In the final set, the Cavalier team was able to break Cunha’s serve to take a 3-1 lead. In the ensuing game, Shabaz faced 0-40 on his serve, but the Cavalier duo were able to roll off five straight points to pick up a key service hold. They used that momentum to break Carleton’s serve in the next game for a 5-1 lead. However, Courtney was broken back in the next game and Cunha held to bring the set to 5-3. With a second chance to serve out the match, Shabaz held serve to send the Cavaliers into the semifinals.
The match was the fourth meeting of the season between the two teams. The Duke duo won the regular season matchup in Durham, 8-6, while the two postseason matches were abandoned after Virginia clinched the doubles point, with both matches either in or on the verge of a tiebreaker.
“We were comfortable playing them again, maybe even a little too comfortable,” said Courtney. “We knew what to expect from them and they probably knew what to expect from us. It was just going to come down to executing on the court. We were able to play to our strengths and get the job done.”
Shabaz is in the doubles semifinals for the second consecutive year after winning last year’s title with Dominic Inglot. Last season, Shabaz and Inglot upset the top-seeded team of Jonas Berg and Bram ten Berge of Ole Miss in the first round en route to the title. Shabaz joins the Georgia team of Allen Miller and Ola Mahnqvist (1982-83) as the only players in the history of the tournament to upset the top seed in consecutive years.
“It means a lot to be in the semis again,” said Shabaz. “Being able to win the title last year has given me a lot of confidence and I think that has rubbed off on Drew. When you get to the semis, you realize how close to the title you are, but you also realize how much work is left to do.”
Courtney and Shabaz play fourth-seeded Ryan Thatcher and Bradley Klahn of Stanford in the semifinals.
In singles, Shabaz, fell in the quarterfinals 6-4, 6-2 to Tim Puetz of Auburn. He is the fourth different Cavalier to reach the quarterfinals, joining Brian Vahaly, Somdev Devvarman and Sanam Singh.
Action continues Sunday with the semifinals of singles and doubles. The tournaments conclude with the finals on Monday.