by Randy Walker
ATHENS, Ga. — Siblings of two all-time tennis greats founds themselves on opposite sides of the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat Tuesday at the NCAA Team Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
The women’s team from UCLA, coached by Stella Sampras-Webster, the older sister of seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras, defeated North Carolina 4-3 to win the women’s title, while the men’s team from Oklahoma, coached by John Roddick, the older brother of 2003 US Open champion Andy Roddick, were defeated by USC in the men’s title match.
The afternoon women’s final went down to the decisive match at No. 3 singles where UCLA’s Kyle McPhillips beat Caroline Price 6-4, 3-6, 6-3 in the last singles match to clinch the second NCAA women’s national title for the Bruins.
“This is the single best accomplishment I’ve ever had in my life,” said McPhillips. “I’ve played (junior) Wimbledon, Australian Open, French Open, US Open and nothing compares to this day right here. Winning individually is so different from winning for your team, your coaches and school.”
UCLA also got singles victories at No. 1 when the country’s No. 2 ranked player Robin Anderson, beat the only player ranked higher than her, top-ranked Jamie Loeb 6-2, 6-2. The other UCLA point in singles came at Chanelle Van Nguyen in No. 4 singles. UCLA won the opening doubles point, which is determined by which team wins two of three eight-game pro-set doubles matches.
In the evening men’s final, Oklahoma, playing in its first NCAA team tournament final, surprised the Trojans by taking the doubles point, but after Dane Webb won at No. 3 singles for the Sooners, the Trojans swept the remaining completed singles matches at No. 1 (Yannick Hanfmann), No. 2 (Ray Sarmiento), No. 4 (Max de Vroome) and No. 5 (Eric Johnson). Vroome won the match-clinching win for the Trojans.
“That was probably the best singles I’ve seen played this year,” said Roddick of the top-ranked Trojans. “Having said that, I think it’s probably the best doubles we’ve played all year.”
The win was the fifth in six years for USC and the ninth overall in the NCAA Team Tournament era (since 1977).
The electric atmosphere of the men’s final, played through dusk, was compounded by the appearance of members of the famous USC marching band “The Spirit of Troy.” While college tennis provides for a slightly more rowdy atmosphere for tennis, full-on organized bands are rarely seen, outside of an occasional Davis Cup match.
“Any team that gets to the semis of the NCAAs, the band comes out,” said USC coach Peter Smith of the arrangement that USC sports teams have with its athletic department and the band. “That’s what they told me. I don’t necessarily arrange it, but they weren’t here yesterday, I was downplaying it with the team, but I was pissed. When you win a national championship or any great victory and the band plays the fight song, it’s a pretty special feeling.”
While USC had its band in its corner, the Sooners had the younger brother of its coach, Andy Roddick, and his model/actress wife Brooklyn Decker cheering them on from the stands.
After Oklahoma’s win over UCLA in the semifinals on Monday, John Roddick discussed his former world No. 1 ranked brother coming to support the team in person.
“He called me last night and said, ‘Am I going to be a distraction if I come?’ And I said, ‘No,’ the guys are used to you for the most part,” said Roddick, a former All-American at the Univ. of Georgia. “The guys have loved having him to cheer them on. He’s a guy who would have loved playing college tennis and he knows that and he says that all the time. It just wasn’t in his cards. I don’t think he would change that since he won the US Open when it would have maybe his senior year. I think that is pretty good. He’s a huge supporter of what we do.”
Loeb, ranked No. 1 in women’s college tennis as a freshman, was looking to do something that her mentor Hall of Famer John McEnroe also did as a freshman on the very same court – lead a team at No. 1 singles as a freshman to an NCAA Championship in Athens.
Loeb, who trained at the John McEnroe Tennis Center at New York City’s Randall’s Island, lost at No. 1 doubles 8-7 (3) with partner Hayley Carter to UCLA’s Anderson and Jennifer Brady in the match that clinched the doubles point for the Bruins. Loeb then played Anderson at No. 1 singles and struggled with her serve and could not overcome her bouts of bad tennis.
It marked North Carolina’s first appearance in the NCAA Team Tournament final.