Andrews Wins All-Cal Final at Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic
by Colette Lewis
, 30 September 2011
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Rain on the final day couldn't dampen the prospects of the University of California-Berkeley competitors at the 11th annual Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic. When the eight participants in the Wild Card Shootout had been decided, three Bears had moved into the quarterfinals, and in the final, it was senior Nick Andrews defeating sophomore teammate Ben McLachlan 10-7 to claim the title and the Pro Circuit wild card that goes to the tournament's champion.
Matches on the first two days were played in warm sunshine, with low humidity and just a hint of a breeze - conditions as ideal for tennis as for the grape harvest underway throughout the world-famous wine region.
The eight juniors selected for the USTA Player Development team and six college teams - Cal, Notre Dame, Tennessee, Tulsa, UCLA and Vanderbilt - made their way to the luxurious Meadowood resort in St. Helena, Calif., to participate in a unique format that provides the younger players an opportunity to compete against collegians.
Each of the eight round robin groups contains three college players and a junior, and after three matches, the winner of each group advances to the Sunday afternoon shootout, which consists of a 10-point tiebreaker in the quarterfinal, semifinal and final round.
"That's part of the excitement of this whole format," said Cal men's tennis coach and event founder Peter Wright, who turned over the tournament's administration to the USTA last year to enable junior participation. "Anything can happen once the shootout starts."
Unfortunately, the mid-morning rain on Sunday's final day complicated the process of whittling the field to eight. Three of the round robin winners - Andrews, his teammate Ahmed Ismail, and USTA junior Alexios Halebian - completed their matches to post 3-0 records in their groups before the rains came. But the other five group winners advanced either by default, when the University of Tulsa team had to leave for travel reasons, or via yet another 10-point tiebreaker. Notre Dame's Sam Keeton, who beat Clay Thompson of UCLA 10-5, and McLachlan, who beat Luca Corinteli of the USTA team 11-9, earned the final two spots in that manner. They were joined in the final eight by UCLA's Adrien Puget and Warren Hardie and by the USTA's Connor Farren, who lives in nearby Hillsborough, Calif.
Both Halebian and Farren advanced to the semifinals of the Wild Card Shootout, not a surprising result, given the USTA team's 10-6 record over the first two days of play.
"We act like a team, try to push each other to win as many matches as we can," said the 17-year-old Halebian, who also competed in Napa in 2010, the first year juniors were invited. "That's a great part of this event."
USTA National coach Andy Brandi, who shared mentoring duties over the weekend with newly hired coach Stanford Boster, was impressed by the sense of purpose he saw in the eight teenagers.