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Tournament Summary
Joyce, Daavettila Repeat as Champions at US Open Midwest Playoffs

The location had changed, but the results were the same as teenagers Martin Joyce and Sara Daavettila defended their titles at the US Open Midwest Playoffs at the University of Notre Dame Monday.

Men's Singles Champion Martin Joyce
© Zoo Tennis
Last year, when the sectional competition for the Midwest was held in Midland Michigan, Joyce was winding up his junior career and preparing for his freshman year at Ohio State, while Daavettila was completing her junior year with one of the best seasons in Michigan High School tennis history.

After winning the chance to compete in the National Playoffs, held in New Haven Connecticut every August with a berth in the US Open qualifying on the line, Joyce and Daavettila were eager to earn that opportunity again in 2016.

Standing between top seed Joyce and a second trip to the Nationals was a familiar face: Dartmouth rising sophomore Eddie Grabill, who grew up playing tennis with Joyce in Hinsdale, Illinois.

Grabill, the No. 5 seed, hadn't dropped a set in his four matches leading up to the final, and he kept that streak going by taking the first set from Joyce 6-3. Grabill returned well and kept his unforced errors to a minimum, breaking the big-serving 19-year-old twice, both at love, to take the lead.

But Joyce fought back, finding more rhythm on his serve and taking advantage of two game-point double faults by Grabill to take the second set 6-2.

The third set was close and tense with no breaks and no break points faced by either player until Grabill served at 4-5. Two forehands long put Grabill in a tough spot and after a Joyce error, a backhand also sailed out, giving Joyce two match points. He needed only one, with Grabill netting a forehand to give Joyce a 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory.

"I'd played him a ton," Joyce said. "It was probably the fifteenth time I'd played him. We practiced together for almost ten years too. It's always weird when you play someone you know so well, have played so many times."

Joyce noted the improvement in Grabill's game after a year of college tennis.

"He's got a lot more offense now than he did, and his serve's a lot better," Joyce said. "He got a lot of first serve, first strike points that he was winning that he didn't have as much before, and coming to the net more. His offense has improved a lot."

Joyce said his backhand had been giving him trouble throughout the tournament, even with four straight-set wins prior to the final.

"The first couple of games he was really going at it, and I was making errors," said Joyce, who went 21-0 at line 6 for Ohio State this year. "But after the first, I definitely started playing more offensive, hitting the ball a little bigger and trying to move him around."

Grabill said he noticed the change in Joyce's game after a year without any play between them.

"He's definitely gotten a lot better being at Ohio State," said Grabill, who went 17-7 at Dartmouth this year. "I was definitely impressed, not only by the serves, but his ability to attack off the ground. I thought he played really well and definitely thought he improved over the course of his freshman year at Ohio State."

Joyce hopes that improvement shows at the National Playoffs in August.

"I lost to [Tennessee All-American] Mikelis Libietis in the first round, and obviously I want to go farther," Joyce said. "It's cool to represent your section, and at that point you're pretty close to being in the Open. It's fun to be a part of that, before the big thing."


Top seed Daavettila earned her second trip to New Haven with a 6-1, 6-2 win over former Michigan All-American Denise Muresan, the No. 4 seed.

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Page updated on Monday, March 09, 2020
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