WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – For UCLA senior Martin Redlicki, it was so good to feel like a champion again and end his storied Bruin career on top. For sophomore Evan Zhu, capturing his first national was a totally unreal moment.
The UCLA pairing wrapped up the 2018 NCAA Division I Tennis Championships with a stirring 6-7 (8), 7-6 (4), 11-9, victory over Martin Joyce and Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State. Joyce, a junior from Hinsdale, Ill., and Denmark’s Torpegaard held a championship point at 9-8 in the final super tiebreaker before it slipped away.
UCLA claimed the 13th NCAA doubles title in program history with the win.
The men’s doubles final had it all in terms for suspense and intrigue.
According to UCLA Athletics Sports Information Director Andrew Sinatra, Redlicki-Zhu jumped out to a 4-2 lead, but the 25th-ranked Ohio State combination countered to get back on serve. The Bruin twosome appeared poised to capture the win with the first three-point lead of the set at 8-5, but again, the Buckeye team showed its own resilience. Joyce-Torpegaard, in fact, found itself on match point at 9-8. Zhu and Redlicki each came up clutch with back-to-back forehand winners, though, putting championship point on the racket of Zhu. The sophomore’s serve was too hot to handle. Zhu leapt into the arms of Redlicki, who capped his storied career with the victory.
“There is no better way to go out at the end,” said Redlicki, who won his second doubles title in three seasons also taking the title in 2016 with Mackenzie McDonald. “I was just telling Evan that a month ago we were ranked No. 79 in the country and we couldn’t really find our footing. We really hit our stride and got into the tournament as one of the last teams in. We knew we were one of the best teams in the tournament if we got to work, good things would happen.”
Zhu added: “We had played them at National Indoors, we had an idea of how they played, but they also knew how we played. Every set literally came down to one or two points. We each had set points in the first set before they won it. We won the second set and then we each had match points in the third. We were just able to win the last point.”
“It was just like the match yesterday when that Ohio State team beat our other team (Keegan Smith and Austin Rapp),” said UCLA Men’s Coach Billy Martin. “A few points here or there were the difference. It looked like each team had a moment where they looked like they had it, but we caught a line on their match point and we took advantage of ours. It certainly was a fun one to get.”
Arianne Hartono – a senior at Ole Miss originally from Meppel, Netherlands – capped off her college career becoming the first Ole Miss player to win an NCAA women’s singles title as she beat Pepperdine sophomore Ashley Lahey in straight sets, 6-4, 6-2.
Hartono joined 2009 men’s tennis NCAA Champion Devin Britton as players from Ole Miss to win an NCAA singles title. The SEC Player of the Year trailed Lahey 3-1 and 4-2 in the first set. But Hartono was able to shift the momentum and held in the 10th game for 5-5 and then broke Lahey twice to steal the first set 6-4.
An ankle injury suffered by Lahey in the third game led to a brief medical timeout and Hartono managed a break of serve to go up 3-1. After a hold she added another break for 5-1 but Lahey wouldn’t quit, breaking back with Hartono serving for match. Hartono then managed a break of her own to take home the title.
Lahey, originally from Colorado who relocated to Southern California as a young junior to train with the USTA, ended her season with 27-5 overall record and 13-4 record against ranked competition.
One of the better storylines of the women’s singles event was the play of Pepperdine, as the No. 17 seeded Lahey was the first Pepperdine women’s tennis player to ever reach the NCAA Singles Championship final and as a result is also the first Pepperdine women’s player to end the season as the NCAA singles championship runner-up.
Looking to join teammate Lahey in the final, the No. 22-seed Mayar Sherif held match points against Hartono before succumbing, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-2).
A third Waves player in the women’s draw Luisa Stefani shocked everyone early on with a three-set upset over top-seeded Bianca Turati of Texas, before falling to Hartono in the quarterfinals meaning Hartono beat three Waves in a row en route to the title.