USC men’s tennis wins national championship

The No. 1 Trojans (33-1) became the third team in history to win four consecutive NCAA championships after a tight 4-2 victory over No. 3 Virginia (29-2) in the finals Tuesday in Athens, Ga.

After USC defeated Virginia in the NCAA title match last season, the Trojans denied the Cavaliers’ bid for revenge behind No. 51 freshman Yannick Hanfmann’s clutch 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (3) clincher over No. 82 Justin Shane.

Hanfmann’s winning point came just minutes before 1 a.m. The Trojans were up 3-2 and just needed one more win to take the championship, but Hanfmann was on the brink of elimination at the same time that fellow freshman Roberto Quiroz was down 1-4 in his final set against Julen Urigüen.

After being broken in the third set, Hanfmann trailed 4-5, but he managed to rally and break Shane back to tie it at five apiece. They ultimately duked it out in a tiebreaker, where Hanfmann came out on top 7-3 to clinch the title.

The Trojans fell in an early 0-1 hole after dropping the doubles point for just the second time this season.

The No. 35 pair of senior Daniel Nguyen and sophomore Ray Sarmiento fell in a 5-8 loss to Alex Domijan and Mitchell Frank, followed shortly by a 4-8 loss by Hanfmann and sophomore Emilio Gomez to Justin Shane and Julen Urigüen.

After doubles action, rain postponed the match to the evening and pushed the teams indoors, where only four matches could be played at a time due to court availability.

No. 1 senior Steve Johnson, No. 21 Nguyen, No. 25 Sarmiento, and No. 57 Gomez took to the courts first, while Hanfmann and Quiroz looked on from the sidelines.

Johnson captured the first match with a 6-3, 6-2 victory over No. 4 Jarmere Jenkins to even the score at one apiece and extend his singles winning streak to 66.

The Trojans then took the lead after Gomez ousted Drew Courtney 6-4, 6-2, but the Cavaliers countered behind No. 2 Mitchell Frank’s 6-3, 6-1 win over Nguyen.

Hanfmann and Quiroz then began their singles matches while Sarmiento wrapped up a 6-4, 7-5 win over No. 39 Alex Domijan, leaving the Trojans up 3-2 and their fates in the hands of the two USC freshmen.

Both Trojans split their first two sets against their opponents, but Hanfmann was the first to finish, leaving the match between Quiroz and Urigüen suspended with Quiroz down 3-4 in the third set.

With 20 titles in hand, the Trojans continue to lead all schools in total team championships and join the 1966-69 USC and 1995-98 Stanford squads to be the only teams to win four consecutive national titles. The championship was also the university’s 117th national title.

The victory over Virginia was the fourth straight year that the Trojans eliminated the Cavaliers from the NCAA tournament.

The Trojans managed to reach the title match after a 4-1 win over crosstown rival No. 4 UCLA in the semifinals on Monday.

After the Trojans took a 1-0 lead in doubles, the matches were again moved indoors due to rain. Only two singles matches could be finished at a time because both semifinal matches in the tournament were being played simultaneously.

Johnson and Sarmiento took to the courts first and extended USC’s lead to 3-0 after dispatching No. 62 Clay Thompson and No. 16 Nick Meister, respectively, both to the tune of 6-1, 6-1.

“I really wanted to keep playing outside because we had a good streak going on courts one and two, but we came indoors and the excitement was there,” Johnson said. “Ray and I came out and got the job done quick.”

Gomez gave UCLA its only point of the match in a 3-6, 4-6 defeat to No. 84 Marcus Giron, which was followed by Nguyen’s 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (3) comeback victory over Dennis Novikov that booked USC’s ticket to the finals.

En route to the semifinals, USC also defeated Fairfield, No. 30 Texas A&M, No. 16 Illinois and No. 8 Duke. The Trojans relinquished just one point in the first four rounds, which came in a loss by Hanfmann to Duke’s Raphael Hemmeler.

Despite the historic feat, the team will have little time to celebrate. Five USC players will now tackle a 64-player field in the NCAA Singles Championship, which takes place from today through Monday at the same site as the team tournament.

Johnson will defend his 2011 NCAA singles title slotted at the No. 1 seed, joined by Gomez, Hanfmann, Nguyen and Sarmiento.

Johnson and Quiroz will also participate in the NCAA Doubles Championship as the No. 2 seed. The last Trojan pair to take the doubles crown was Robert Farah and Kaes Van’t Hof in 2008.

The doubles tournament begins Wednesday and will conclude Monday.

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