May 27, 2006
STANFORD, Calif. – Sophomore Sheeva Parbhu (Omaha, Neb./Millard North H.S.) saw his run in the NCAA Men’s Tennis Singles Championship end in the quarterfinals when he lost 6-1, 6-3 to 14th-ranked Somdev Devvarman of Virginia Saturday afternoon at Stanford University’s Taube Family Tennis Stadium. The defeat concluded the 2005-06 campaign for the Irish men’s tennis team, while Parbhu – the lowest-ranked player (at 32nd) left in the event – remained the first Notre Dame men’s player since 1959 to reach the final eight in the NCAA singles draw.
“Sheeva put together a great run in this tournament,” said Irish associate head coach Todd Doebler, who handled the on-court coaching duties over the last three days. “He did not play his best match today, but he ran into someone who is really playing well right now. Devvarman always is very consistent and hits good passing shots, and I had not seen him serve as well as he did today.”
Though closer than the scores indicated, the match saw Devvarman – the only remaining Nos. 9-16 seed in the draw – consistently come through to win big points, mostly due to his consistency both off the ground and in his service games. The Cavalier jumped out quickly to set the tone of the contest, breaking serve in the first and third games. Parbhu then won the first two points on Devvarman’s serve in the ensuing game, but the native of Chennai, India, would go on to hold and take a 4-0 advantage. The Irish sophomore’s only game victory in the opening frame would come on a hold to make it 4-1. Devvarman again got down 0-30 on his next serve game, but ended up saving two break points and holding his serve. The final game of the set was a long battle, but it ended – as most of them did – with Devvarman prevailing, this time on his fourth set point.
The Cavalier again got an early break in the second set, finally converting on his third break point to notch what would turn out to be the frame’s lone break of serve. Parbhu had three break points in the ensuing game, but could not convert, and he would not have another good opportunity to get back into the set. Devvarman – who improved to 30-12 on the season and 69-20 in his career – not only held in all eight of his service games, but he also faced break points in just two of them. That combined with getting early breaks in both sets was a winning formula, as Devvarman improved to 3-0 in his career against Notre Dame players.
Parbhu had a five-match winning streak snapped and fell for just the second time since Spring Break. He concluded the campaign with a 33-8 overall mark in singles, which stands as the most singles wins by an Irish player in a campaign since Ryan Sachire was 37-9 in 1998-99. Parbhu was 14-3 in tournament action (26-7 in his career) and shared the team lead in singles victories in dual matches with a 19-5 record (39-8 career). Among the biggest of those victories was a three-set triumph against Ohio State’s Bryan Koniecko that handed a 5-2 defeat to the Buckeyes, their lone loss of the regular season. He posted an 11-4 record against nationally-ranked players this season, including 5-3 vs. higher-ranked foes. After not cracking the national rankings as a rookie, he started his sophomore season with 10 consecutive victories, was the runner-up in the ITA Midwest Championships (having his 17-match winning streak ended by a teammate in the final), and reached the round of 16 in the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships to soar to a career high of 14th in the rankings on Jan. 10. He was listed among the top 35 all spring.
Parbhu was particularly impressive in tight contests, going 9-3 in three-set affairs (14-5 career), 32-14 in close sets (6-4, 7-5, or 7-6), and 18-5 in close matches (28-7 career). He was virtually unbeatable in tiebreakers, going 11-2 in traditional ones (15-4 career) and winning his only match tiebreaker (3-0 career). He went 12-0 at home (25-3 career) and also excelled outdoors, finishing with a 16-3 mark (35-7 career). Parbhu was a perfect 26-0 when winning the opening set of a singles match and has now won 33 in a row in that situation, dating back to the 2004 Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic. He also won nearly half of the time when dropping the first frame, going 7-8 on the campaign.
The Irish sophomore posted a 7-5, 6-0 upset of eighth-ranked Scott Doerner of Pepperdine – one of the Nos. 9-16 seeds – in the opening round to end a 10-match losing streak (that stretched over nine years) for Notre Dame players in the NCAA individual championships. He then won 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 against Ryan Preston from Vanderbilt to assure that he will be named an ITA All-American and went on to top Arizona’s Roger Matalonga 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 to become the first Irish player since 1959 (semifinalist Maxwell Brown) to reach the quarterfinals.
Devvarman – who lost in the second round of the 2005 event – moved on to the semifinals, in which he will take on the lone American remaining, 25th-ranked KC Corkery of host Stanford. The other semi will feature the tournament’s top seed, national #1 Benjamin Kohlloeffel of UCLA, against 22nd-ranked Erling Tveit from Mississippi.