Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

Official newspaper of The University of Texas at Austin

The Daily Texan

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October 4, 2022

NCAA men’s tennis tournament recap: After impressive run, No. 3 Texas loses National Championship to No. 4 TCU in 4-3 thriller

Kennedy Weatherby

No. 3 Texas came up just short against No. 4 TCU on Sunday at the Greenwood Tennis Center in Stillwater, Oklahoma, giving TCU its first National Championship in school history in a thrilling 4-3 affair. 

The closest National Championship match since 2013 was the last team match for senior mainstays Eliot Spizzirri, Cleeve Harper, Eshan Talluri, Micah Braswell and Siem Woldeab. Under their leadership, Texas won the Big 12 Conference Championship in 2023 for the first time since 2018 and is the only team in the nation to have advanced to four of the past five Final Fours. 

Texas hosted the first three rounds of the tournament as the No. 2 overall seed and cruised to the Elite Eight, sweeping Sacramento State, No. 25 UCLA and No.17 Texas A&M, respectively, within the friendly confines of the Weller Indoor Tennis Center and Texas Tennis Center. But the support from the burnt orange faithful wouldn’t end there, with many following the Longhorns a week later to Stillwater. 

On Thursday, Texas experienced its first true obstacle of the tournament in No. 7 Tennessee, featuring Johannus Monday, the top-ranked singles player in the nation. The Longhorns held a 3-2 lead after securing the doubles point and singles victories in straight sets from fifth-ranked Braswell and 40th-ranked freshman Gilles-Arnaud Bailly. 

Opposite Monday on court one was Spizzirri, who was No. 1 in singles throughout the past year until Monday took his crown in the May 2 rankings. Monday had the Big 12 Player of the Year on the ropes, up 5-2 after winning the first set 6-4, but Spizzirri had other plans. 

With his back against the wall, he embarked on one of the best stretches of tennis in his Texas career, beginning with a dominant 6-0 run, winning four match points in the process, including two on Monday’s serve. He would go on to win 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 to complete the improbable comeback, sending Texas to its fourth Final Four in five years and his teammates streaming onto the court to mob him. 

“I thought from 5-2 on (in the second set), the pressure kind of goes away, because it’s in his hands now, and he’s a huge server, and he was serving really well,” Spizzirri said to Texas Athletics. “I just thought to myself, ‘Take it one point at a time, and fight your butt off and see what happens.’” 

Spizzirri carried his momentum into Texas’ Final Four matchup with Wake Forest on Saturday, winning the first 10 games of his match against 25th-ranked senior Filippo Moroni, giving him a commanding lead he would never relinquish. He won 6-0, 6-3 to even the score at one following the Demon Deacons’ doubles point victory. 

For over 20 tense minutes during the Final Four match, the ESPN+ broadcast was locked on the “Bailly Box,” a split screen of court three, where Gilles-Arnaud shut the door on graduate student Matthew Thomson 6-3, 7-5, and court four, where 90th-ranked junior Pierre-Yves Bailly did the same against 124th-ranked senior Luciano Tacchi winning 6-2, 7-6 (7-4). The Big 12 Freshman of the Year won only moments after his older brother as Thomson’s forehand landed in the alley after colliding with the net cord, sending the Longhorns to the National Championship and the traveling fans into a frenzy. 

A familiar foe awaited Texas on Sunday in No. 4 overall seed TCU, fresh off a 4-2 victory over No. 1 seed Ohio State, but the Longhorns would get off to a slow start in the fourth matchup of the season between the in-state rivals.

Pierre-Yves, dealing with a nagging wrist injury suffered in the first round against Sacramento State, lost in straight sets, putting Texas in a 2-0 hole after the Longhorns dropped the doubles point. However, Texas responded with straight-set victories by Gilles-Arnaud and Harper on courts three and six, respectively, to tie the match. 

Texas was on the precipice of victory after Braswell went on a dominant 12-2 run to complete his improbable comeback against fifth-year senior No. 7 Jake Fearnley to clinch his undefeated senior season with his 35th consecutive win. However, Spizzirri, whose comeback three days prior sent the Longhorns to the Final Four, ironically fell victim to a stunning rally from sophomore No. 13 Jack Pinnington to tie the score at 3. 

All eyes turned to court five, where a third set battle of sophomores would decide the National Champion. Texas’ Jonah Braswell and TCU’s Sebastian Gorzny engaged in many long rallies, neither wanting to make a crucial mistake. Following Jonah’s backhand kill shot to cut Gorzny’s lead to 4-3, it was all Gorzny as he dashed his hometown school’s National Championship dreams with multiple exquisite shots in the next two games to prevail 7-5, 4-6, 6-3. 

While Texas’ season is over as a team, many of its players are competing at the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships this week in Stillwater. On Monday, Gilles-Arnaud, Jonah and Spizzirri all fell in the round of 64 with the latter losing a rematch to Moroni in straight sets. Micah extended his winning streak to 37, winning in the opening two rounds in straight sets before being upset 6-4, 6-4 by No. 29 Filip Planinsek, a junior from the University of Alabama on Wednesday. 

On Tuesday, the 24th duo of Spizzirri and Harper rallied for a third-set win over No. 17 JJ Bianchi and Jake Vassel from Boston College, 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (8) to advance to the Sweet 16. Awaiting them on Wednesday afternoon is the second-ranked pair of Holden Koons and Dhakshineswar Suresh, the same Wake Forest duo that Spizzirri defeated with Siem Woldeab in the Final Four on Saturday.

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