Wasting no time in finalizing his bid for the International Tennis Association National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, USC sophomore Ray Sarmiento took home the singles crown at the ITA Southwest Regional Championships without losing a single set over the course of the entire tournament.
Sarmiento, ranked No. 15 in the ITA rankings and seeded No. 2 in the five-day competition, defeated No. 15 seed Pepperdine’s Francis Alcantara 6-4, 6-3 in the finals to take home the crown.
No Trojan had won a singles title at the ITA regionals since 2000.
As the singles champion of the regionals, Sarmiento earns an automatic bid to the prestigious ITA Indoor Championships in Flushing, N.Y., in early November.
USC senior No. 16 Daniel Nguyen will join Sarmiento, who had already earned a bid to the tournament for his play in the ITA All-American Championship earlier this month, in Flushing.
Pepperdine’s No. 19 Finn Tearney challenged Sarmiento in the first set of the semifinals before the eventual champion pulled away to win it 7-5. Sarmiento then finished the match with a 6-1 set over the No. 3 seed of the tournament.
After a bye in the first round, Sarmiento had defeated five consecutive opponents before his finals matchup against Alcantara.
“In the beginning, [Alcantara] took me out of my game and neutralized my forehand, but I took advantage of his backhand,” Sarmiento said. “He is a tricky player. He can take you out of your game really quickly and take advantage of errors.”
The finals nearly featured two USC players, but Alcantara defeated USC freshman Yannick Hanfmann 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals to prevent an all-Trojan clash.
“The semifinals were a little disappointing,” Hanfmann said.
Seeded No. 12 in the tournament, Hanfmann endured a tough run to the semifinals, upsetting No. 10 Sebastian Fanselow of Pepperdone, No. 1 in the tournament, 6-4, 6-4 in the round of 16.
In the next round, Hanfmann pulled off another upset against San Diego’s No. 56 Nikola Bubnic 6-4, 6-4.
“I wanted to play [Yannick] in the finals,” Sarmiento said. “He’s been playing really well for us. He has a really big game and can beat anyone in the country.”
USC sophomore Emilio Gomez, No. 66 in ITA rankings and No. 8 in the regionals, saw his undefeated singles record come to an end after losing 3-6, 2-6 to No. 111 Mousheg Hovhannisyan of Pepperdine in the round of 16.
USC freshman Eric Johnson also made a run to the round of 16. Johnson had upset the No. 17 seed, UCSB’s Mathieu Forget ,6-4, 6-4 in the round of 32 before barely losing to San Diego’s No. 67 Clarke Spinosa 6-1, 5-7, 2-6.
USC sophomore Corey Smith and freshman Jonny Wang also participated in the singles draw, victorious in the first round before losing to seeded players.
The 64-team doubles draw featured three USC teams, with the doubles champions also earning bids to the indoor championships in New York.
The No. 3 pair of Hanfmann and Nguyen, and the No. 5 pair of Gomez and Sarmiento, were upset in the quarterfinals.
After dispatching pairs from Fresno State and Pepperdine, Gomez and Sarmiento lost 3-8 to the No. 9 Bubnic and Thibaut Visy, who eventually captured the doubles title.
“Doubles could have been better, but we’ll continue to find our game as the year goes on,” Sarmiento said. “Emilio and I are getting better every day in practice.”
On the other side of the doubles bracket, Hanfmann and Nguyen defeated pairs from San Diego State and UCLA before losing 3-8 to No. 6 Alcantara and Remi Boutillier of Fresno State.
“We had some early struggles,” Hanfmann said. “I lost in the service game, and it’s not easy to come back. Maybe next time.”
Johnson and Wang also paired up in the doubles draw, winning in the first round before a 4-8 loss in the next round to No. 9 seed UCI’s Ryan Cheung and Fabian Mathews.
Sarmiento and Nguyen will focus on their preparations for the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships, scheduled to take place from Nov. 3 to Nov. 6 at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing.