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Nicole Gibbs: How I Won The NCAA Singles Title
Courtesy: Stanford Athletics  
Release: 06/10/2013

June 10, 2013

STANFORD, Calif.- Exactly two weeks ago, junior All-American Nicole Gibbs completed a dominating tournament run in becoming the first repeat NCAA singles champion since former Cardinal standout Amber Liu accomplished the feat in 2003-04.

The postseason success shouldn't come as a surprise for Gibbs, who is Stanford's 16th all-time collegiate singles titlist (14 NCAA, 2 AIAW). After all, she's compiled a 30-1 career record during the month of May (including both NCAA team and individual competition).

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."

That being said, Gibbs, who earlier this season publicly voiced her decision to turn pro and forego her senior year, was able to also end her personal career on a high note.

Let's hear Gibbs tell the story with some candid match-my-match reflections.

First Round: d. No. 47 Yang Pang (Arkansas) 7-5, 6-4
"Obviously, this was a really quick rebound from our team final the night before. I tried to stay as strict to my recovery schedule as possible. I jumped in the ice bath, even after winning a championship, which was a little hard to stomach but I knew it would be worth it. We had our postgame dinner celebration the night before and I probably got to sleep around 2 a.m. I actually had a presentation that was due at 8 p.m. and since my first-round singles match was scheduled for 5 p.m., I was planning to Skype in after the match. But rain delays pushed it back to 8 p.m. So, up to 10 minutes before the match begins, I was scrambling trying to make an iMovie of myself presenting, which I would then send to a friend who would present it in class for me. Honestly, I found myself hoping to get more of an easier match, but this girl was anything but. Aggressive and played very, very well. She took advantage of my short balls and mistakes. I was so emotionally void after everything from the team and found myself relying on Lele (head coach Lele Forood) during changeovers for support. I kept telling myself today was the hardest day and it would be better tomorrow."

Second Round: d. No. 58 Ronit Yurovsky (Michigan) 6-4, 6-4
"I had never played her before. At this point, I was still running on fumes after playing against four top-six opponents (during the final four matches of the team competition) where I didn't feel performance pressure, but more the pressure of the actual team match. If I lost my match there, it wouldn't be the end of the world because they were all great players. Now, we're switching to a situation where I'm playing girls who are ranked in the 40's and 50's. So, I was feeling a different pressure in these early rounds and this match was no different. Plus, the wind was crazy. At one point, I hit a lob that, before bouncing on her side, actually blew into the net on her side to win me the point. It was absolutely ridiculous. I thought it put more pressure on me, because wind or any kind of condition can be an equalizer for someone you feel you should be beating. She played a great match and fought really hard, and I was kind of lucky to get away with as clean of a match as it was. I was not playing my best at this point of the tournament."

Round of 16: d. No. 4 Christina Sanchez-Quintanar (Texas A&M) 6-4, 6-4
"This was a mentally strange match to come into. When we played three nights before in the team final, I felt completely dominated in that match and then completely dominated her. So, I didn't really know what to expect here. If anything, I think that result might have made me a little complacent. She came out hot in this match, exactly like she did in the team final, and I quickly found myself down 4-1. I'm thinking `Oh, my gosh, this again?' I just really fought to battle back and win that first set. At this point, I'm a little more recovered, having played two singles and one doubles match during the individual tournament. Ultimately, I was able to employ the same tactics as before to turn the match around. It's rare to play a non-conference opponent twice. Her backhand down the line is just lethal, so until I had kind of an easier shot in the point, I would avoid hitting to her backhand. I then tried to take my opportunities to come forward as they presented themselves."

Quarterfinals: d. No. 16 Yana Koroleva (Clemson) 6-1, 6-1
"We faced off during the regular season in February (Gibbs defeated Koroleva 6-2, 6-2 back on Feb. 23 at a neutral site). This particular match started outdoors but was moved indoors. She's a fairly straight-forward player, which at that point of the draw was a welcomed matchup. This girl can really blast the ball and tries to stay on the offensive, which actually is a great matchup for me because I can try to move her around and take my offense. Or kind of feel her out and try to get her to miss, which I'm also pretty good at. However, I was a little wary coming in, because she had just beaten Georgia's Lauren Herring 6-2, 6-0 (ranked No. 6 in nation) during the team tournament. So, I'm thinking, `This girl must be playing a lot better since our first meeting.' This was probably the best match I played that week. I was really feeling it, returning her bigger balls and using that power and hitting my own winners. I thought indoor courts might be a disadvantage against her, but it was the opposite and I was able to move her around the court better."

Semifinals: d. No. 31 Breaunna Addison (Texas) 6-1, 6-1
"We played Texas at home during the regular season, but for whatever reason I don't think it actually occurred to me to ask Kristie about her match against her (Kristie Ahn defeated Addison 6-4, 7-5 at the No. 2 spot during Stanford's 7-0 win back on March 10). Although, I do remember watching their match on that day from the next court over, because they were playing such athletic points. I told Kristie afterward that I was jealous of the kind of tennis they were playing, because it was very dynamic with these long points ending in winners. So, I remembered a little bit from that match and seeing that Breaunna could hit a big ball. I felt this match would be pretty straight-forward and had watched her a little in the round before. I just tried to stay tough out there, thinking it was possible she might be getting a little tired. Also, coming through my match in the round of 16 as cleanly as I did, I think allowed me to find that second gear for these later rounds."

Championship: d. No. 11 Mary Weatherholt (Nebraska) 6-2, 6-4
"Thoughts about repeating started creeping in during the semifinals and I was feeling more anxious. Mary is really tough, plays an aggressive style and has unconventional stroke production which makes her ball difficult to field. Once she beat Robin Anderson (UCLA's top player, ranked No. 3 nationally) in the round of 16, I had a pretty good idea she was going to come through the draw and started watching her. Growing up in the Midwest, I had remembered her name from U12 in juniors and she was always a top-ranked player but we had never faced off. I got a little lucky in the second set, as she started having problems with her knee. I know that feeling all too well of battling injuries. Last year, I had more tape on me than I did athletic gear. The biggest emotion I felt immediately after the match was a breath of relief. Throughout the year, I felt some pressure after winning NCAA's the season before and having a great summer. But I lost three straight matches in late March/early April, and this was after people were telling me I should have turned pro last year. Plus, I was also was dealing with a lot of injuries earlier this year and wasn't feeling mentally or physically capable of doing what I had done in 2012. But during our team workouts late in the year, I regained my confidence. Even if I wasn't playing great, I would have the resources to get through a match physically. The pieces fell into place one by one, and I was playing my best at the end of this year. So after this match, just a huge sigh of relief and reflection on the adversity I had been through during the middle of the season. Recognizing this would be something I could draw upon in the future, and learning how to take care of the things in my control while redirecting my focus."

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- Brian Risso, Athletics Communications/Media Relations



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