Oct. 16, 2011
COLUMBUS, Ohio – Notre Dame men’s tennis player Casey Watt moved one step closer to an USTA/ITA Regional Championship on Sunday as he clinched a spot in Monday’s semifinals of the tournament, with a straight-set win over Ohio State’s Devin McCarthy, 7-5, 6-3.
Watt, who had knocked off foes from Illinois-Chicago, DePaul and Illinois to get to the round of eight, ran into his toughest test of the tournament in McCarthy. McCarthy, the tournament’s No. 5 seed, had earned straight-set wins in all three matches leading up to the showdown with Watt. However, that would not be the case on Sunday as Watt snuck past McCarthy in set one, 7-5, before closing out the match with a 6-3 win.
“Casey played a gutty match,” said head coach Bobby Bayliss. “His opponent was a big hitter, and Casey held his ground and moved him around a lot.”
The senior from Gibsonia, Pa., will now battle the tournament’s top seed in Ohio State’s Blaz Rola. Rola has absolutely rolled thus far in the tournament, winning all matches in straight-sets, while allowing only eight games in four matches. No opponent has won more than two games in any one set. Along the way he has topped two teammates who were also seeded in No. 16 Connor Smith and No. 8 Ille Van Engelen.
“Casey will have to return Rola’s serve effectively to have a shot at winning,” said Bayliss. “He is serving bombs right now. Casey will have to find ways to hurt him.”
The semifinals, which are composed of the top four seeds in the tournament, are made up of Watt and Rola on one side of the bracket and Michigan’s Evan King and Ohio State’s Chase Buchanan on the other side of the bracket.
The two semifinal matches are slated for 11 a.m. on Monday and can be followed via live stats or on Twitter at @OhioState_MTEN.
Elsewhere in singles action, senior Niall Fitzgerald saw his impressive tournament come to an end at the hands of Buchanan, the tournament’s No. 2 overall seed. Fitzgerald barely lost in the first set, 7-6, before being topped, 6-4, in the second.
“After playing four matches yesterday, Niall was battling a sore arm today,” said Bayliss. “To his credit he played through it against one of the best players in the tournament. Casey and Niall really showed this weekend that they could play with and beat some of the best players in the country.”
In doubles action, a pair of Irish teams fell to the Buckeyes. The team of Watt and Greg Andrews, seeded ninth, dropped a round of eight match to the tournament’s No. 1 seeded team of Buchanan and Peter Kobelt.
On the other side of the bracket, the No. 6 seeded team of Van Engelen and McCarthy squeaked out an 8-6 win against Notre Dame’s Fitzgerald and Spencer Talmadge, who were seeded No. 3.
Notre Dame doubles ended the tournament with a 7-5 record, and secured two teams in the round of eight.