The USC men’s tennis team sent in a contingent of players to the 2014 US Tennis Association Collegiate Clay Court Invitational in Orlando, Florida this weekend, with Trojan sophomore Nick Crystal placing highest on the team as the tournament’s runner-up.
The final match saw Crystal ultimately unable to overcome No. 1 seed Hunter Harrington of Clemson. Harrington dispatched Crystal in two sets to claim the USTA Collegiate Clay Court Invitational crown, 6-2, 6-3. USC head coach Peter Smith cited a rule change made by the NCAA Division I Men’s and Women’s Tennis committee for no-ad scoring, meaning that on deuce points where games are tied 40-40, the next player to score wins the game.
“[Harrington] played great and Nick lost three deuce points. We’re using no ad scoring now and Nick barely lost those points,” Smith said. “Nick played a great match, but to Harrington’s credit, he never let Nick into the match.”
Crystal, who finished last season ranked No. 85 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s rankings, was unranked in this season’s preseason rankings. The former No. 1 college tennis recruit in New York, according to TennisRecruiting.net, began his campaign for the clay court title by defeating Virginia Tech’s Florian Nicourd in the opening round. Smith credited Crystal’s improvements and receptiveness to changes in his game, in addition to a comfort level on the slower clay courts, for Crystal’s success at this year’s tournament.
“I think [Crystal] knows how to move really well on clay, but I think he would have done just as well on a hard court,” Smith said. “We talked to him about making some changes in his game and he implemented those changes. We changed [Crystal’s] grips, backhand, volley and forehand strokes. We made some tweaks to a lot of areas of his game.”
Crystal went on to defeat Marco Nunez of Florida State in the next round and Columbia University’s Mike Vermeer, the No. 6 seed in the tournament, en route to a quarterfinal berth against No. 2 seed and USC teammate junior Max de Vroome.
In a match that went to two tiebreaks, Crystal overcame de Vroome 7-6(5), 7-6(3) to earn him a semifinal tilt with Auburn’s Max Hinnisdaels, whom the Waccabuc, New York native defeated 6-2, 1-6, 6-3.
In individual tournaments, players on USC’s team can — and often do — run into each other in the draw. Smith saw the match between de Vroome and Crystal as a positive development that helps his team improve, also noting that such incidents mean that both players had been successful in the tournament individually.
USC senior Roberto Quiroz, the two-time defending champion of the tournament, didn’t play there this year. When asked about Quiroz’s absence, Smith joked that Quiroz had been barred due to winning the tournament two years in a row.
“All the coaches got together and they barred Roberto from playing,” joked Smith with a deadpan. “Roberto hasn’t played a ton this fall, which I would have liked to see him do a little bit more. But he couldn’t make the trip because he’s going New York next week to play doubles with [USC senior] Yannick Hanfmann. It’s a tough back-to-back trip and he’s got to take care of his school work.”
Hanfmann and Quiroz will begin play at the ITA National Indoor Championships in Flushing Meadows, New York on Nov. 6.