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Smith, Falconi Capture All-American Titles

October 12, 2009 09:56 AM

Southerners came up big as Tennessee’s John-Patrick Smith and Georgia Tech’s Irini Falconi captured ITA All-American Championships last weekend.

Smith, ranked No. 2 in the preseason Campbell/ITA College Tennis Rankings achieved a feat that only two others have accomplished in the history of the ITA Men's All-American Championships, by capturing the singles and doubles titles. He is joined by exclusive company in Mississippi State's Daniel Courcol (1992) and Harvard's James Blake (1998).
Fresh off a victory in one of the prime matchups of the tournament, which could also stand as one of the season's best.  Smith bounced back after dropping the first set to knock off third-ranked Robert Farah of USC, the 2007 D'Novo/ITA All-American Runner-Up.

While today's singles final couldn't exactly be termed as a David vs. Goliath matchup, Smith, the 2008 NCAA Championship Runner-Up, who already has one singles title under his belt this year by winning the first flight of the UVA Plus One Invitational, has been in many big matches in his young college career. Oklahoma's Andrei Daescu, a senior turning into a rising star under the tutelage of first year Head Coach John Roddick, brother of Andy Roddick, reached his first major collegiate championship final.
Smith appeared to be in championship form from the get-go, opening up by winning the first two games before Daescu found his groove, eventually sending the first set into a tie-break, where Smith was able to outlast Daescu in front of the Sooner State home crowd.
It was Andrei who came out firing in the second set, claiming the first two games. At that point, despite the cold drizzly weather, J.P. began to start warming up, winning six of the next seven games to claim the set, match and singles title.
"He competes very hard and hits the ball very well so I needed to be on my game right away to get the win," Smith said. "Sticking with my strengths got me through it today so I'm happy."
In the first doubles match, Smith and Boris Conkic, who had not previously played together as a team prior to the D'Novo/ITA All-American Championships, made quick work of the highest-remaining doubles team, defeating the No. 3 seeded Wisconsin team of Moritz Baumann and Marek Michalicka, 8-3.
With time working against them, the Vols doubles team stayed on the court for the doubles finals which pitted the tournament's No. 2 singles player versus the No. 1 singles player in Oklahoma's State's Oleksandr Nedovyesov, the 2009 Campbell/ITA National Player of the Year. On a day in which nothing seemed to slow down the resilient Australian, he and Conkic were able to put away the Cowboy duo, 8-4. The win pushed his total two-day match tally at six matches.
"Playing so much tennis definitely takes it out of you both physically and mentally," Smith said. "The main thing I try to do is keep relaxed and do a lot to look after my body so I can compete at such a high level."
In consolation play, the Duke team of Reid Carleton and highly-touted freshman Henrique Cunha were able brush off the Childs brothers of Louisville to capture the doubles consolation title Saturday night while Robin Fahgen of SMU put the clamps on sixth-seeded Dimitar Kutrovski, 6-2, 7-5, claiming the consolation singles championships.

Sophomore Falconi of Georgia Tech Women defeated Georgia’s Chelsey Gullickson in straight sets Sunday to capture the 2009 Riviera/ITA Women’s All-American Championships singles title at the Riviera Tennis Club.
“It feels unbelievable to win this title,” Falconi said. “Winning is a great feeling no matter whether it is a a regular match or capturing a national title. I didn’t realize that I had won the title until the awards ceremony began.”
Falconi, seeded eighth in the tournament, cruised to a 6-2, 6-1 victory over the second-ranked Gullickson to earn her first individual national title. After dropping the first game of the match, Falconi went on a run and never looked back.
“It was a matter of me being on task and completely on the game plan” Falconi said. “I have played Gullickson before but I played a totally different game from the last time and I think I caught her off guard. I could feel if I kept the momentum going I would be all right. She did not give me this match but I just took it point-by-point.”
“I am very happy for Irina achieving such a remarkable goal,” head coach Bryan Shelton said. “She was able to win this National Championship in such convincing fashion which speaks to the hard work she put in this summer and fall. Irina helps us to add to the National Championships we have amassed over the past few years both individually and as a team. To think that she is only a sophomore brings a huge smile to my face.”
Since 2007, the Georgia Tech women’s tennis team has earned six national titles including Falconi’s victory this weekend. The Yellow Jackets have won two ITA National Team Indoor Championships, the 2007 NCAA Championship, Amanda McDowell won the 2008 NCAA Singles title and McDowell and Falconi captured the 2008 Riviera/ITA All-American Championships doubles title.
The All-American Championships is the first of three major events of the season that attracts the nation’s top collegiate tennis players. The other national title opportunities this year are the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships (Nov. 5-8) in New Haven, Conn., and the season-ending NCAA Championships (May 26-31) in Athens, Ga.




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