May 27, 2013
URBANA, Ill.- When it was all said and done, junior Nicole Gibbs saved her best for last.
Competing with the same sharply-focused, business-like demeanor she has displayed throughout her entire career, Gibbs defeated Nebraska's Mary Weatherholt 6-2, 6-4 on Monday afternoon to become the first repeat NCAA singles champion since former Cardinal standout Amber Liu (2003-04).
The All-American from Santa Monica, Calif., ripped through the postseason competition, making the Atkins Tennis Center her personal playground for two weeks. Gibbs won all six of her NCAA singles contests in straight sets and closed out the year on a 14-match winning streak. In the process, Gibbs improved her career record to 30-1 during the month of May (including all NCAA team and individual play).
Gibbs' individual accomplishment was that much more impressive, considering she was coming off such an emotionally-charged run to the team title.
"I'm so happy to have won both the team and singles title," said Gibbs. "But it was so sweet to win with the team. No memory can replace that."
For at least one more hour on Monday morning, Stanford fans were treated to another dominating performance by one of the storied program's all-time greats. Becoming Stanford's 16th all-time collegiate singles champion (14 NCAA, 2 AIAW), Gibbs collected her 111th career victory and will leave behind a legacy of elite tennis.
Gibbs, who earlier this spring publicly voiced her decision to turn pro and forego her senior year, will now focus on elevating her game to the next level. For the last two weeks in Urbana, and really since the day she first stepped foot on The Farm, it's been evident the two-time NCAA singles champion is simply on another level than her opponents.
That was the case on Monday against Weatherholt, a senior All-American and winningest player in Nebraska history who entered the championship match with only one loss. Weatherholt's tourney resume was also impressive, including victories over Cal's Klara Fabikova and UCLA's Robin Anderson, an opponent who handed Gibbs one of her four losses in 2013.
Then again, why should Gibbs be intimidated by any college player? After all, she's battled Serena Williams on her home court inside the Taube Family Tennis Stadium and has since continued to compete in pro tournaments with the objective of gaining experience and improving her ranking.
Gibbs bolted out to a 4-1 lead in the first set and closed out the frame 6-2 after she and Weatherholt alternated games.
Early momentum favored Weatherholt in the second set, racing to a 2-0 lead and handing Gibbs her first multi-game deficit in several days. Gibbs battled back to 2-2, only to see Weatherholt move back in front 3-2.
After Gibbs evened the match at 3-3, Weatherholt required attention from the trainers and it became clear she was not at full strength. The Cornhusker has battled injury during her career, redshirting the 2010-11 campaign after suffering an ACL tear.
Tied at 4-4 in the second set, Gibbs found another gear and closed out the match 6-4.
Gibbs is only the second Stanford player to win an NCAA team, singles and doubles title in her career, teaming with Mallory Burdette to capture the 2012 doubles crown. Also accomplishing the feat was Linda Gates (Team: 1982, 1984, Singles: 1985, Doubles: 1984, 1985).
Monday's singles title was the fourth career for Gibbs, who last year claimed the NCAA Championships, Pac-12 Championships and ITA Northwest Regional Championships.
Gibbs also became the first player to capture the NCAA team and singles title in the same year since Duke's Mallory Cecil (2009) in College Station, Texas.
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NOTES: Stanford's 16 collegiate singles champions include: Jane Allen (1964- AIAW), Kathy Jordan (1979- AIAW), Alycia Moulton (1982- NCAA), Linda Gates (1985- NCAA), Patty Fendick-McCain (1986, 1987- NCAA), Sandra Birch (1989, 1991- NCAA), Debbie Graham (1990- NCAA), Lilia Osterloh (1997- NCAA), Laura Granville (2000, 2001- NCAA), Amber Liu (2003, 2004- NCAA), Nicole Gibbs (2012, 2013- NCAA) ... Gibbs is one of five Stanford players to capture at least two NCAA titles during her career ... Gibbs finished the year 24-4 overall, 17-4 in duals, 7-0 in tournament matches and 17-4 against nationally-ranked opponents ... For her career, Gibbs is 111-15 overall, 65-6 in duals, 46-9 in tournament play and 67-12 against nationally-ranked opponents ... The only players to defeat Gibbs this year were Pepperdine's Lorraine Guillermo, UCLA's Robin Anderson, USC's Sabrina Santamaria, Santa Clara's Katie Le ... Entering Monday's championship match, Gibbs had dropped only one set spanning her last 13 matches ... Gibbs played in only one match during the fall season due to injury ... Gibbs is 10-8 career in three-set matches, winning her only three-setter of this year on May 21 in the team final against Texas A&M's Christina Sanchez-Quintanar ... Gibbs won a career-high 25 consecutive matches from Jan. 26-April 30 during her freshman year in which she reached the NCAA singles semifinals ... Gibbs has won 37 sets by a 6-0 score in career (four this year, 14 last year, 19 as a freshman) ... Head coach Lele Forood has now mentored six NCAA singles champions during her 13-year tenure Laura Granville in 2000-01, Amber Liu (2003-04, Nicole Gibbs 2012-13).
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No. 13 Nicole Gibbs
First Round: d. No. 47 Yang Pang (Arkansas) 7-5, 6-4
Second Round: d. No. 58 Ronit Yurovsky (Michigan) 6-4, 6-4
Round of 16: d. No. 4 Christina Sanchez-Quintanar (Texas A&M) 6-4, 6-4
Quarterfinals: d. No. 16 Yana Koroleva (Clemson) 6-1, 6-1
Semifinals: d. No. 31 Breaunna Addison (Texas) 6-1, 6-1
Championship: d. No. 11 Mary Weatherholt (Nebraska) 6-2, 6-4
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"I'm still a little bit shocked right now. This season has carried a lot of adversity for me. I haven't been dominant throughout, so having this dominant of a performance is a big surprise and a very welcome one to me. It's amazing to join the very elite club of people who have won two titles, and honestly, I don't feel deserving. I'm just very happy with everything that's happened these past few weeks."
"I had kind of a tough season. I ended the summer with an abdominal injury that kept me out, to varying degrees, of the fall season. I played a couple pro tournaments, but I wasn't playing anything in college. When I came back, I wasn't nearly as dominant as I had been at the one position at my school."
"It was a little bit unsettling to play such a darkhorse on such a big stage and important venue. I scouted her a little bit through the end of the week watching how she was winning her points. She's a very solid player, hits a flat ball, so Lele and I went out after my match yesterday and just practiced fielding those lower balls, and that's the only way I knew how to prepare for today."
"I'm leaving the day after finals to go to Wimbledon qualifiers. I'm getting an early start, I should only have to come back to finish my degree for one to two quarters so I've gotten enough of the way through that it shouldn't be too much of a burden when I do come back."
"I have a history with this knee. It was just three-all, first point I think, when she hit that short ball. I think I was just trying to not hit the net when I hit it. I felt it jam a little bit. I tried to walk it off through the next point. I just tried to fight through it. It didn't make a difference in the match; (Gibbs) played really well."
"I honestly haven't looked past today. I know I've talked about playing some mixed doubles at that US Open Playoff with (Nebraska associate head coach) Hayden (Perez), depending on how my body recuperates. I love playing tennis; so even if it's just for fun, I'd like to keep playing."
"As a competitor, you want to win every match. I think anyone who gets to this level wants to win every match. Ultimately, that's not what it's all about. It doesn't define who I am. It's just been a fun tournament and a fun career here at Nebraska. I'm thankful for every opportunity on the court. Of course you always want to get it done, but you win some; you lose some. What can you do?"
"I actually like playing people I haven't played before, just because it's always fun to play someone new and figure out their game. (Gibbs) played really well. I didn't play my personal best, but part of that is she's a good player. She was putting some pressure on me. She played well. I tried to adjust, but I missed too many balls. She came up with some good shots and good returns."