Jan. 27, 2018
By Joanne Norell
AUSTIN, Texas — The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team can check a major item off its to-do list.
The youthful Irish extended its best start to a season since 2014, improving to 4-0 with a 4-3, last-match-on win over No. 8 Texas in the opening round of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend at the Texas Tennis Center.
Heading into Saturday’s match, the youthful Irish hadn’t won a dual match against a ranked opponent in nearly a year. Their last win over a top-10 team came in 2015.
Saturday’s win, if not a harbinger of things to come, certainly showed a glimpse of the potential the 2018 version of the Irish are capable of achieving.
Critical to the Irish effort was the performance of their remaining undefeated singles players — particularly 45th-ranked junior Alex Lebedev (3-0), who clinched the victory with the final three-set decision over No. 37 Leonardo Telles. Freshman Richard Ciamarra (4-0) and junior Grayson Broadus (3-0) also improved their spotless records, while Guillermo Cabrera also won in three sets to help propel the Irish over the Longhorns (3-1).
How It Happened
Texas snared the 1-0 lead after doubles after a pair of 6-2 victories, first on Court 3, then on Court 1.
Singles, however, gave way to several tight matches. Despite quick decisions on Courts 3 and 5, the remaining matches each went to tiebreakers in the first set and three reached a third set, setting up anything but an assured victory for either team.
The Longhorns extended their lead with the first singles point, with Yuya Ito defeating sophomore Matt Gamble 6-1, 6-0 at No. 3 singles, but the Irish narrowed the score on Court 5 when Ciamarra defeated No. 52 John Mee 6-2, 6-2. It was the first ranked singles win of Ciamarra’s collegiate career, and the rookie improved to 4-0 on the season.
Texas regained its two-point lead with a win on Court 4. No. 98 Rodrigo Banzer bested freshman Tristan McCormick 7-6(4), 6-4, but Cabrera got the Irish back within one with a three-set win over No. 27 Harrison Scott, 7-6(4), 3-6, 6-2.
The Irish tied the match when Broadus recovered from a first-set fall to defeat Adrian Ortiz 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4 at No. 6 singles. Broadus remains undefeated this spring at 3-0.
The match then came down to Lebedev on Court 1. After winning the first set in a tiebreaker, Lebedev dropped the second to Telles to force a third stanza. The two traded holds throughout the match, but the Irish captain took charge in the tiebreaker to eventually seal the win at 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4).
On the magnitude of the win…
“I think on paper it’s the biggest road win that our program has had in a really long time. In the moment, you’re playing a tennis match and you’re not thinking of those kind of things, but as you reflect on it you understand the magnitude. Texas has a fantastic team and we respect their coaching staff tremendously. We knew we had to play a fantastic match win, but we gave ourselves a chance to win and we did.
“Grayson, Guillermo and Alex really stepped up (in three-set matches). I couldn’t be prouder of the effort and prouder of our guys, but at the same time we have to be ready to go again tomorrow against Minnesota (who defeated Tennessee 4-3).”
On Lebedev’s performance…
“He played a really, really good player in Leo Telles and he does a lot of things that make Alex uncomfortable. You combine that with being outdoors on a windy day and it’s kind of cold, it wasn’t the best tennis match (Lebedev) has played, but what a heroic and competitive effort to stay in the match and give himself a chance to win. I told him after the match what a testament it was to him as a competitor and player. He dug deep and hung around and gave himself a chance. He probably wasn’t the best tennis player in three-quarters of the match today, but in the last half of a set he put pressure on his opponent and got the separator in the tiebreaker. We got to that stage because he’s been competing like a lion and he’s been doing that for the last five months. He’s approaching the court that way every day.”
On coming back after dropping the doubles point…
“It was huge. In matches like this there are so many opportunities like this to go away, to be dejected and not come back. Our guys just didn’t do it. It’s something we talk about a lot and stress, but at the same time, they’re the ones out there that have to do it. I couldn’t be more proud of the resilience they showed. They did a good job of competing and fighting. They didn’t blink or shut down. They bought into it and did a phenomenal job and we were fortunate to win tonight.”
Notes To Know
- Richard Ciamarra leads the Irish with a 4-0 dual singles record in 2018. Grayson Broadus and Alex Lebedev improved to 3-0 on the season.
- Ciamarra’s win over No. 52 John Mee was his first career win over a ranked singles opponent.
- Junior Alex Lebedev is 5-0 in his career at No. 1 singles.
- Notre Dame’s 4-0 start is its best since opening the 2014 season 6-0.
- It was the best win by ranking for a Notre Dame team since the Irish defeated No. 1 North Carolina 5-2 on April 8, 2016.
- The Irish improved their record in the all-time series with the Longhorns to 4-10.
The Irish will face Minnesota (1-1) at 2 p.m. ET in Sunday’s ITA Kick-Off Weekend championship match. The winner will earn a bid to the ITA National Indoor Team Championship, hosted by the University of Washington from February 16-19 at the Seattle Tennis Club.
Notre Dame 4, No. 8 Texas 3
ITA Kick-Off Weekend
Texas Tennis Center
Jan. 27, 2018
1. No. 45 Alex Lebedev (ND) def. No. 37 Leonardo Telles (UT) 7-6(5), 1-6, 7-6(4)
2. Guillermo Cabrera (ND) def. No. 27 Harrison Scott (UT) 7-6 (4), 3-6, 6-2
3. Yuya Ito (UT) def. Matt Gamble (ND) 6-1, 6-0
4. No. 98 Rodrigo Banzer (UT) def. Tristan McCormick (ND) 7-6(4), 6-4
5. Richard Ciamarra (ND) def. No. 52 John Mee (UT) 6-2, 6-2
6. Grayson Broadus (ND) def. Adrian Ortiz (UT) 6-7(5), 6-3, 6-4
1. No. 5 Rodrigo Banzer / Leonardo Telles (UT) def. Brendon Kempin / Tristan McCormick (ND) 6-2
2. William Howells / Alex Lebedev (ND) vs. No. 23 Yuya Ito / Harrison Scott (UT) 3-4, unfinished
3. Colin Markes / Adrian Ortiz (UT) def. Richard Ciamarra / Matt Gamble (ND) 6-2
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame men’s tennis and fencing programs, in addition to assisting with football communications and overseeing production of the football Gameday Magazine. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University and earned her master’s degree from Georgetown University in 2013.