May 25, 2006
STANFORD, Calif. – Junior All-America twins Catrina Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) and Christian Thompson (Las Vegas, Nev./Bishop Gorman H.S.) were eliminated from the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships on Thursday at Stanford University’s Taube Tennis Center to conclude the 2005-06 season for the University of Notre Dame women’s tennis team. The sisters, seeded third, were upset in the first round of the doubles draw, falling 6-3, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-2) to the 18th-ranked team of Lindsey Nelson and Luana Magnani of USC. Earlier in the day, Catrina lost 6-3, 6-2 to defending NCAA champion Zuzana Zemenova of Baylor in the second round of the singles tournament.
The back-and-forth doubles battle culminated in a final-set tiebreaker. Unlike the second-set one, USC jumped out quickly and never looked back, getting Notre Dame errors on the first two points. The Irish would cut the lead to one point on two occasions (2-1 and 3-2), but could not tie the score. The Women of Troy won the match’s final four points – including a big serve from Magnani on match point that ND could not get back into play – to knock off the fifth-ranked doubles team in the country.
The USC duo improved to 24-7 on the season, while the Thompsons ended with a 22-7 mark and a season-long three-match losing streak. They had beaten Nelson and Carine Vermeulen by an 8-3 score during the fall and suffered an opening-round NCAA loss for the first time after reaching the round of 16 in both of the last two seasons.
The Thompsons opened the match with a break of Nelson’s serve, but it would be all USC the rest of the opening frame, as the Trojans got breaks in the fourth and eighth games and did not suffer another to take a one-set advantage.
The schools traded breaks early in the second set, and USC then used a double fault on break point from Christian Thompson to go up 4-3. The Irish put much pressure on Magnani’s serve in the next game, but in the end could not convert on their four break points, and eventually the USC senior would hit a winner down the middle to put the Trojans up 5-3. USC had an opportunity to serve out the match – its first of three failed tries in the affair – at 5-4, but Catrina Thompson hit a volley winner on Notre Dame’s third break point to even the affair. The Trojans broke back immediately, but again could not serve out the match, as the Thompsons got another break to send the second set to a tiebreaker. A pair of S.C. errors and a drop-volley winner from Catrina put Notre Dame up 3-0, and that would be enough. Catrina hit a backhand return screaming down the line for a winner on ND’s third set point to force a decisive frame.
Three Christian Thompson double faults contributed to a USC break early in the third, but the Irish lost just one point in the ensuing game to get back on serve at 2-3. The Trojans would break again in game eight, but again the Thompsons responded immediately, dropping only a single point on Magnani’s serve and getting back on serve with a poach volley winner from Catrina after Christian painted the sideline with her return. Nelson held to make it 6-5, and Notre Dame had to do something it had not yet accomplished in the match – win on Christian Thompson’s serve. The Irish came through, using a pair of volley winners from Catrina to cap off a love game and force a tiebreaker.
Thompson, ranked 30th, battled Zemenova – a sophomore from Slovakia who is currently ranked sixth in the country – early on in her singles match. She was broken in the affair’s first game, but then broke back and held for a 3-2 advantage. From then on the two-time Big 12 Conference Player of the Year dominated, breaking the Irish junior’s serve four straight times and winning 10 of the match’s final 12 games. Zemenova first held to level the score at 3-3 in the first and then saw Thompson double fault on her second break point in the seventh game of the match to put Baylor ahead for good. The ND player broke serve to open the second set, but continued to have trouble holding her own serve (Zemenova registered six breaks in Thompson’s nine service games). The Slovakian, who has been ranked as high as #3 nationally this season, improved to 33-6 in 2005-06 and 62-11 in her career. Last year, she became the first unseeded player ever to win the NCAA singles title, taking a three-set victory over Audra Cohen (then of Northwestern, now of Miami) – this year’s top seed – in the final.
Thompson – who won in three sets on Wednesday to become just the third Irish player ever to win a match in the NCAA singles event on multiple occasions – finished with a career-best 29-12 record. She was 18-6 in dual action in her second season at No. 1 singles and was ranked as high as 24th in the nation. Thompson was 13-12 against nationally-ranked players and won 10 of her final 14 matches with all of those defeats coming against top-20 opposition.