ATHENS, Ga. – The Virginia men’s tennis program won its fourth individual NCAA Championship as the doubles team of Michael Shabaz (Fairfax, Va.) and Drew Courtney (Clifton, Va.) won the 2010 NCAA Doubles Championship on Monday at the Dan Magill Tennis Center. The unseeded Cavalier duo, ranked No. 14 nationally entering the tournament, topped second-seeded John-Patrick Smith and Davey Sandgren of Tennessee in the final, 6-7(4), 6-2, 6-3.
“I don’t know if it has sunk in yet that I am a NCAA champion,” said Courtney. “I played well and really just tried to enjoy myself on the court and to enjoy the moment. I am excited for not only the win, but for the future.”
It is the second consecutive doubles title for Shabaz, who won the 2009 championship with Dominic Inglot, also defeating the Volunteer team of Smith and Sandgren in the final.
“The second one feels just as good,” said Shabaz. “I am really excited for Drew to be able to win this one. It wasn’t easy, but we were able to pull through in the end.”
In this year’s final, the Cavalier team jumped out to a quick start, breaking Sandgren’s serve in the opening game. They held that advantage until Shabaz was broken at 5-4 when he was serving for the opening set. The set went to a tiebreaker, which the Tennessee duo won 7-4 to take the first set.
“We played well in the first set until I had a poor service game,” said Shabaz. “Even though we lost the first set, we felt like we had played the better set. We knew if we kept returning well and serving well, we were in a good position. Those things paid off for us in the end.”
Courtney and Shabaz regrouped in the second set and went up a break when they broke Sandgren’s serve for a 3-1 lead. They held that advantage until they broke Sandgren’s serve again to close out the second set 6-2.
“I thought we loosened up a little bit in the second set,” said Courtney. “Once we won the second set, I thought we had the edge in the third. We had found our targets and felt like if we could execute and hit them, we were going to be successful.”
The Cavalier team took a break lead early in the final set when they broke Sandgren’s serve for the third consecutive time for a 3-1 lead. Each side held serve in the next four games to set up Courtney serving for the match at 5-3. He hit two service winners and two aces, including one on match point, to seal the victory.
“I tried to put it all in perspective,” said Courtney. “I may have been serving for a national title, but I told myself it was just like any other service game. I went to my favorite serve and we came out on top. It was really comforting to get some first serves in and to get some free points in that game.”
Shabaz becomes the first player since Matt Lucena of California to win consecutive doubles titles. Lucena won the 1990 and 1991 titles, also accomplishing the feat by playing with different partners.
“It is pretty awesome to win it again,” said Shabaz. “It was a little weird playing Smith and Sandgren again in the final, this time playing with a different partner. But that says a lot about the talent and desire of this program. This win is not just for us, but for the whole Virginia tennis program. We had a tough end to the team tournament, but hopefully this can help us bounce back from that loss and give us some momentum heading into next year.”
It is the fourth consecutive year that Virginia has won a NCAA individual championship. Somdev Devavrman won the singles title in 2007 and 2008 before Shabaz/Inglot and Shabaz/Courtney have won the doubles title the past two years. Virginia is the first school to win individual titles in four consecutive years since USC did so in 1961-64.
“I am so proud of Drew and Michael,” said head coach Brian Boland. “To come back from just a disappointing loss in the team tournament and play well in the individual tournament is hard to do. It just shows how resilient and focused these guys are. They put forth their best effort every day during this tournament and are now reaping the rewards. It is a great way to end a season that didn’t quite meet our expectations from a team standpoint.”