May 8, 2009
AUSTIN, Texas. - Facing two match points on his opponent's serve, with a loss on either point ending Washington's season in shutout fashion, sophomore Tobi Obenaus somehow found a way back into his No. 6 singles match, and he and three of his teammates rallied to take the final four matches against Texas Tech this morning, in an unbelievable 4-3 First Round NCAA win for the Huskies.
Washington looked down and out, trailing 3-0 and down a set in two more matches, yet Obenaus and senior Ryo Sekiguchi each forced third sets after falling behind in the first. None was more dramatic than Obenaus' comeback against Milos Kustudja. Kustudja raced through the first set, 6-1, and held a 5-3 lead in the second set, and had the mach on his racket, serving up 40-15. Obenaus staved off the match points, got the break, and then took the set to a tiebreak which he won, 7-2. From there the Huskies won at third, fourth, and fifth singles, and Obenaus then fittingly clinched the match with a 6-1 third set win.
This is Washington's 15th-straight NCAA appearance, and surely its most memorable first round victory. The Huskies will not have too long to celebrate, however, as they will need to reload for their second round match tomorrow likely against 12th-seeded Texas, the host of the four-team Regional. Texas faced Sacred Heart following UW's win. The Huskies will face either Texas or Sacred Heart at 11 a.m. Pacific tomorrow for a spot in the Round of 16.
Head coach Matt Anger left little doubt that this was the best comeback he had seen in his 15 seasons at Washington.
"We have had, over the years, a couple of great comebacks, but I can say never have we put ourselves in a hole like we did today and come back to win," Anger said. "It is, for sure, the greatest comeback that I've been a part of. This was special. As the match was going on, I thought maybe we were more ready and able to handle the weather. We were trying to finish the right way. If someone is going to get you, they have to earn it."
The Red Raiders swung momentum in their favor by virtue of winning a closely contested doubles point. Tech won the No. 3 doubles match with ease, 8-2, but UW's Patrik Fischer and Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan earned an 8-4 win over Michael Breler and Sinisa Markovic at No. 2 doubles to level the point. The top doubles match went back and forth, with 35th-ranked Derek Drabble and Martin Kildahl battling Tech's 15th-ranked tandem of Raony Carvalho and Christian Rojmar. Carvalho and Rojmar went up a break early in the match, but Drabble and Kildahl fought back on serve and took a 6-5 lead. The Tech duo responded, however, with a run of three straight games to take the 8-6 win and clinch the doubles point.
Riding high after their doubles win, the Red Raiders looked like they might roll right over the Huskies in singles play, as they took early leads in five of the six first sets. Only Kildahl got off to a good start at third singles against Gonzalo Escobar, taking an early break lead. Drabble then caught fire in his first set and charged back to take it, 7-5. Still, Texas Tech won the remaining four first sets, putting the Huskies in a hole.
Washington's top two singles players were never able to get on track today. Nedunchezhiyan lost 6-0, 6-1 to Markovic at No. 1 singles, and Fischer fell to 41st-ranked Carvalho, 6-2, 6-1 at the No. 2 position. The Huskies were squarely behind the eight ball, down 3-0.
That's when the turning point came. Sekiguchi closed out his second set against Michael Breler at fifth singles, 6-4, forcing a third set there. Kildahl and Drabble had both lost their second sets but would certainly get a shot of adrenaline if Obenaus forced a third set as well. Obenaus and Kustudja went into the tiebreak at that point, and after Obenaus prevailed, Washington dominated the rest of the way.
The matches finished in ascending order, with Kildahl defeating Escobar 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 for UW's first point, followed by Drabble finishing off Rojmar, 7-5, 1-6, 6-1 at No. 4 singles. Sekiguchi rolled in his third set as well, tying the match at 3-3 with a 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 win over Breler. Then Obenaus stayed strong to finish off Kustudja and clinch the match, 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1. If ever there was a match where just the score did not tell the whole story, that was it.
This is the first NCAA Championships win for the Huskies since 2006, which was the last time they made the Round of 16. The Huskies fell to Wisconsin in the first round each of the past two years.
Live scoring updates for tomorrow's second round match will be available on www.texassports.com.
Washington Men's Tennis
NCAA Championships - First Round
May 8, 2009 - Austin, Texas
Penick-Allison Tennis Center (Univ. of Texas)
No. 27 Washington 4, No. 36 Texas Tech 3
1) (15) Carvalho/Rojmar (TT) def. (35) Drabble/Kildahl (UW), 8-6
2) (87) Fischer/Nedunchezhiyan (UW) def. Breler/Markovic (TT), 8-4
3) Gonzalez/Escobar (TT) def. Obenaus/Alex Rosinski (UW), 8-2
Order of finish: 3, 2, 1
1) Sinisa Markovic (TT) def. (43) Jeevan Nedunchezhiyan (UW), 6-0, 6-1
2) (41) Raony Carvalho (TT) def. (112) Patrik Fischer (UW), 6-2, 6-1
3) Martin Kildahl (UW) def. Gonzalo Escobar (TT), 6-2, 2-6, 6-3
4) Derek Drabble (UW) def. Christian Rojmar (TT), 7-5, 1-6, 6-1
5) Ryo Sekiguchi (UW) def. Michael Breler (TT), 2-6, 6-4, 6-1
6) Tobi Obenaus (UW) def. Milos Kustudja (TT), 1-6, 7-6 (2), 6-1*
Order of finish: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6
* Clinched Match