2014 NCAA Tennis Kick-Off at Southern Inter-Collegiate Championships in Athens, GA
Jeff McMillan, Tennis East Coast
September 21, 2014–The 2014-2015 college tennis officially kicked off this past weekend in various fall individual tournaments. The dual (team vs team) season will begin in January, but in the fall, college tennis players compete in individual events that help their rankings and prepares their teams for the grueling season ahead. It is the only collegiate sport to have two full seasons (fall and spring).
The major tournament of the past weekend was the Southern Intercollegiate Championships in Athens, Georgia at the University of Georgia’s Dan Magill tennis center, which is the premier college tennis facility in the country. Players from various schools around the south competed in 3 flights of singles with the Division 1 draw being the premier draw of this tournament.
There were many storylines during the weekend results. Freshman Aleks Vukic from Australia showed up in his collegiate debut representing the Fighting Illini of Illinois. Vukic knocked of hometown UGA senior star Nathan Pasha 1-6 6-2 7-5 in the round of 16 in a surprising result showing that Vukic will be a name to watch this season. Vukic eventually fell in the semis to Oklahoma Sooner sophomore Alexandru Ghilea of Romania. Ghilea had a very interesting year last year as a freshman at OU. He started the year with big expectations but found himself outside of the top 6 for most of the year. As the year wound down, however, OU started to struggle at the 5 and 6 positions, which was putting their national title chances on hold. Ghilea was inserted at 6 and it made an immediate impact for the Sooners. Ghilea knocked won a 7-6(5) 3rd set breaker vs Karue Sell of UCLA in the clincher that propelled Oklahoma to a big 4-3 upset of many people’s national title favorite UCLA in the final four. Ghilea looks like he has improved dramatically from last year based on his run this weekend to the final in Athens. A runner-up result for Alexandru Ghilea is a very impressive result for a player who played #6 last year. He will be an even bigger contributor to OU this season.
The biggest story of the weekend was Wayne Montgomery taking the title. Montgomery finally made his long- awaited collegiate debut this past weekend. Montgomery, a freshman from South Africa was actually supposed to play for the Georgia Bulldogs last year, but eligibility requirements prevented him from competing in the 2013-2014 season. But this year, Montgomery is ready to instantly become one of the top players in the NCAA. Entering as the 4 seed, Montgomery lost 9 games in total in his first 3 matches, rolling to the semifinals where he would face his first huge test as a college player.
Looming in the semis was top seed Axel Alvarez-Llamas of Oklahoma.
Alvarez-Llamas, the junior from Spain, was one of the top players in the country throughout the season last year. He eviscerated eventual NCAA champ Marcos Giron of UCLA in the NCAA team semifinals in two easy sets, showing what type of player he is. After dropping the first set 1-6, Montgomery came roaring back with the help of the home crowd to claim his first big scalp, knocking off Alvarez-Llamas 1-6 6-0 6-3. Montgomery won the championship by beating Ghilea 6-1 3-6 6-2 in the final and cementing himself as a top NCAA player.
This regional tournament (full draw here) served as a good primer for the upcoming college season. College tennis fans will have their appetites whet even more with the national individual event in Tulsa beginning in late September.