Loeb and Thompson Claim USTA/ITA Indoor Titles
by Colette Lewis
, 18 November 2013
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The freshman's title was no surprise, while the senior's run to the championship caught everyone off guard at the USTA/ITA Indoor Intercollegiate Championships earlier this month. Eighteen-year-old All-American champion Jamie Loeb of North Carolina dethroned defending champion Robin Anderson of UCLA 6-3 6-2 in the final, but the Bruins got their title when Clay Thompson defeated Jared Hiltzik of Illinois 6-4, 7-5 in the men's championship match.
In just two months of college tennis, Loeb had already impressed with her march to the ITA Riviera All-American championship
, where she came through pre-qualifying to win 11 matches in ten days and defeat top seed Anderson 6-4, 6-0 in the final.
Assured of a main draw berth in the elite 32-player draw at the Indoor championships at Flushing Meadows' USTA Billie Jean King Tennis Center, the Ossining, New York resident was delighted to return home for her second collegiate major.
"I love North Carolina, but it's always good to be home," the top seed said after her first round win. "I'm staying at home tonight and throughout the tournament, seeing my parents. My coach Felix (from the John McEnroe Academy) came this morning and he's going to come tomorrow as well. It's nice seeing everybody and being able to play in New York."
Loeb treated her family and friends to a first round victory over 2012 semifinalist Sofie Oyen of Florida, then picked up straight-set wins over Chanelle Van Nguyen of UCLA and Jenny Jullien of St. Mary's. Her 6-2, 6-0 semifinal thrashing of preseason No. 1 Sabrina Santamaria of Southern California, the No. 4 seed, did nothing to dent her confidence as she took aim on her second major title.
Anderson, seeded No. 2, also had not dropped a set on her way to the final, although she did trail Loeb's freshman teammate Hayley Carter, the No. 7 seed, 5-1 in the first set before roaring back for a 7-5, 6-2 semifinal victory. Anderson, a 20-year-old junior from Matawan, New Jersey, looked comfortable and confident as she extended her winning streak at the Indoor to nine, but in the final, Loeb proved too strong.
Although Loeb admitted to some nerves in the first several games, she kept the pressure on Anderson and soon had a 4-1, two-break lead in the first set. Loeb gave one break back, but reclaimed it when she broke Anderson for the set.
Anderson got off to a good start in the second set, breaking Loeb in the first game, but couldn't consolidate, losing her next service game and watching Loeb take another 4-1 lead, although it was just one break. Anderson held for 4-2 and forced Loeb to win a deuce game to keep her lead, but when Loeb held there for 5-2, she let out a loud "c'mon," pumping her fist in the direction of her family, friends and private coach sitting in the viewing area above the court.
Loeb was correct in viewing that as a key hold, with Anderson forced to serve to stay in the match.
Seeing the finish line, Loeb kept giving back Anderson's pace with more of her own and soon it was 15-40. After so many penetrating ground strokes throughout the match, Loeb picked her first match point to display her variety, hitting an excellent backhand slice that Anderson had to come forward to get. When Anderson's forehand went long, Loeb turned to her supporters with another fist pump and c'mon, having secured the first National Indoor title for the Tar Heels.
"We both played pretty well," said Anderson. "Jamie came out, she executed. She really didn't miss at all. Congrats to her, she played really well. She has a solid game all around."
Anderson said she's seen improvement in her own game since winning the title last year, so she didn't have much regret about surrendering it.
"I still played really well. I felt like I played better than I did last year, so as long as I'm improving, that's the goal," said Anderson, who will be on the team representing the United States at the Master'U BNP Paribas international college tournament in Paris next month.
Loeb didn't see much of a change in strategy from Anderson, although she did notice that Anderson was hitting the ball bigger than she did in the All-American final.
"She mixed it up with a lot of slice and she has a good serve," said Loeb. "I think she served better today than last time we played. Plus, indoors, it's faster, a faster pace obviously. I think she was hitting the ball harder today. But I think that helped me, because I was able to redirect it and use that pace. But I think both of us played pretty well today."
With just one loss in her college career and as the only freshman to ever win both fall collegiate majors in the same season, Loeb acknowledges her decision on playing professional tennis may need to be made sooner rather than later.
"I'm going to see how the rest of the season goes, and I'm going to be there for my team and support them," said Loeb, who is the first woman since Texas' Lucie Ludvigova in 1993 to win both fall majors. "I'll know they'll do the same for me. I'm excited for the spring and I'm just going to think about that for now, see how that goes, and by the end, I'll make a decision and see what I want to do and how I feel."
For men's champion Thompson, a major title was unanticipated, even given his outstanding fall season. So when the No. 6 seed overcame a late bout of nerves in the second set to defeat Illinois sophomore Hiltzik, he was mostly in shock.