Another bizarre ending, and the Virginia Tennis season is now in the history books.
After a furious comeback and a heartbreaking loss in the Men's Tennis team finals, five Hoos competed in the NCAA Singles Championships: Michael Shabaz, Alex Domijan, Saman Singh, Jarmere Jenkins and Drew Courtney. Fourth-year Shabaz advanced the furthest of any Cavalier, defeating Henrique Cunha of Duke 5-7, 6-3, 6-1 on Saturday to reach the semifinals for the first time in his career. (Good interview with Shabaz here after that quarterfinal win.)
Shabaz, the tournament's #3 seed, was the fourth Cavalier to reach the NCAA singles semifinals. In the semis on Sunday, he faced the tournament's top seed, USC's Steve Johnson. After losing the first set in a tie-breaker, things got strange:
In the second set, both players held easily through the first five games, with Johnson holding a 3-2 lead. As Shabaz served at 2-3, he faced the first break point of the set at 30-40. After his first serve was long, he hit Johnson's return out of the way to prepare for a second serve. That swing caused the ball to leave the stadium and Shabaz was given a point penalty for ball abuse, giving Johnson the break and a 4-2 lead. Following the call, Shabaz chose to retire from the match.
Make of that what you will; I hope to hear the full story soon. Either way, the end result is that Virginia's five-year streak of having a NCAA singles or doubles finalist comes to an end. A somewhat disappointing end to a brilliant season.
On the women's side, Lindsey Hardenbergh and Emily Fraser competed in the Singles Championships. Fraser lost her first round match to Allie Will of Florida, but Hardenbergh advanced to the round of 16. In the first round, Hardenbergh defeated Alex Cercone of Florida. In the process, Hardenbergh became the first Cavalier woman to win a match in the NCAA Singles.
Unfortunately, Hardenbergh ultimately fell in the round of 16, losing 6-2, 6-3 to Nina Secerbegovic of Baylor. That loss took none of the luster off a brilliant season for Hardenbergh and the Virginia women. Hardenbergh ended the season with a 42-9 singles record, the best mark in program history. She also became the first Cavalier women's tennis All-American.
The best news for the Virginia women? After the best season in program history, every single player on the roster is eligible to return next season.
These are good times indeed for tennis at the University of Virginia.