Senior Ito caps off excellent week with a men’s singles championship

Nathan Han and Zachary Leff

On Sunday, senior Yuya Ito captured his first singles title of the fall session against No. 10 Sam Riffice of the University of Florida with a 6-4, 6-4 victory at the Saint Francis Health System ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Ranked No. 4 in the nation, Ito ran through the competition in the main draw defeating multiple top 40 players along the way. The final match against Riffice was a rematch of last spring’s national championship semifinal match where Ito’s success propelled the Longhorns to the 2019 championship round.

“In this tournament, in the past two years I’ve lost in the first round, and I thought it might be one of the unlucky tournaments for me, but obviously here I am,” Ito said. “I was just very dedicated with this being my last time here.”

In the championship match, Ito continued his hot streak and took the first set. However, in the second set, Ito went down early to Riffice and had to battle through adversity, ultimately securing a 3-0 run.

Tied 4-4 in the second set, Ito floated a lob shot over the head of Riffice to win the ninth game. It was this backbreaking moment of Ito’s comeback run that caused Riffice to put his hands on his head in frustration.

Ito’s win against Riffice on a national stage could be a sign of things to come for the Texas tennis team. The senior beat Riffice in the semifinals of last year’s NCAA Championships to help Texas advance to the finals and eventually win its first national title.

With Texas’ campaign to win a second national title now underway, Ito’s singles title at the All-American Championships against stiff competition puts the Longhorns on the right track.

Head coach Bruce Berque said he was very impressed with the way Ito played all week and liked the way he set the tone for the younger players on the team.

“Everyone associated with our program is extremely proud of and happy for Yuya,” Berque said. “Yuya set the tone early that he was going to play an aggressive style of tennis, and that was no doubt one of the keys to the match.”

Ito’s singles title win also means that in three of the four events Texas has attended so far, a Longhorn has won the singles title.