Smith Claims Two Titles for Volunteers at D'Novo ITA All-American Championships
by Colette Lewis
, 15 October 2009
The weather was damp and cool in Tulsa last weekend, but the dreary conditions didn't faze Tennessee junior JP Smith, who became the first player to sweep the singles and doubles titles at the All-American Championships since Harvard's James Blake accomplished that feat in 1998.
Under gloomy skies, in front of only a few shivering fans, the left-hander from Australia collected his school's first All-American singles title with a 7-6(7), 6-3 victory over Oklahoma
's Andrei Daescu. With that title secure, he then won two doubles matches with teammate Boris Conkic to join Blake and Mississippi State
's Daniel Courcol as dual winners of the college season's first major event.
The second-seeded Smith and the unseeded Daescu started nervously in the first few games. Although there were six breaks of serve in the first set, midway through its 80 minutes the level of play rose noticeably, with lengthy points more often ending with winners than errors.
At 5-5 in the first, Daescu was broken when Smith stroked a backhand pass at 30-40, but Smith was unable to serve out the set, double faulting at 6-5, 30-40 to settle for a tiebreaker. Daescu took a 5-3 lead in the tiebreaker with a deft drop shot winner, but he said later that he thought the next point cost him the match.
"The momentum was with me after I broke him at 6-5," said Daescu, who had won all five of the tiebreakers he played in his previous matches. "I played well in the first couple of points in the tiebreaker but I interrupted that momentum when I double faulted at 5-3. To be honest, right now I feel like that cost me the whole match."
Smith had set points at 6-5 and 7-6, but Daescu's two clutch backhand winners kept him alive. On the third, at 8-7, Smith was able to force an overhead error on his lob, a tactic that proved successful against Daescu, who approached the net often to finish points. It was a long, tense set, and perhaps unsurprising that Smith would lose the opening game of the second set and fall behind 2-0.
"I got down an early break like I did yesterday in the second set against Farah," said Smith, referring to his semifinal match with the third seed from Southern California. "I knew I had to compete well to win, so I forgot about it and just moved on, and played a really good second set."
Serving at 3-4, Daescu saved one break point, but sent a forehand several feet long on the second, and suddenly Smith was serving for the match. Unlike the nervous game he played when serving for the first set, the 2008 NCAA finalist hit four first serves to close out what was certainly the match's shortest game.