May 28, 2012
ATHENS, Ga.- No matter what the outcome, Monday's NCAA singles final was going to represent another chapter in the rich and storied tradition of Stanford women's tennis.
In a unique head-to-head matchup that lasted nearly three hours and featured several tense moments, sophomore Nicole Gibbs edged junior Mallory Burdette 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in an all-Stanford singles final at the 2012 NCAA Tennis Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
Fans were treated to a mixture of incredible shot-making, pinpoint placement and lengthy, well-executed rallies, even despite the occasional ill-timed double fault. With the nation's top two players battling for the singles crown, the Stanford tennis program was well-represented on Monday despite the result.
Rallying back after a first-set loss and shaking off deficits of 4-1 and 5-2 in the second set, Gibbs became the 15th all-time collegiate singles champion in school history (13 NCAA, 2 AIAW). Gibbs is the first Stanford player to capture the NCAA singles crown since Amber Liu repeated as champion in 2004.
The good news for both players is there still more tennis to come, as Burdette and Gibbs will now also compete for the NCAA doubles title later this afternoon (rain delay, time TBA, vs. Georgia's Nadja Gilchrist/Chelsea Gullickson).
It's the first time in NCAA men's or women's tennis history that teammates squared off in the singles final before later pairing up in the doubles title match. Burdette will be playing for her second consecutive NCAA doubles title after winning last year with Hilary Barte, while Gibbs will be trying to win her first.
But for at least the first part of the day, the spotlight belonged to Gibbs, who reached the semifinals of last year's tournament with an impressive rookie campaign.
Improving to 41-5 overall on the year, Gibbs defeated three top-10 opponents during her tournament run, including No. 1 Allie Will of Florida yesterday in the semifinals. A two-time All-American from Santa Monica, Calif., Gibbs won her 17th consecutive match on Monday with her last loss coming back on April 14.
Wearing red as the lower seed, Burdette stormed to a 6-2 win in the first set and appeared to be in control with a 4-1 lead in the second. But Gibbs ripped off three straight games to even the set at 4-4 and actually led 6-5 before Burdette broke Gibbs for a 6-6 tie.
In the second-set tiebreaker, Gibbs raced out to a 2-0 lead before Burdette won five straight points. Gibbs then countered with five straight points and closed out the tiebreaker at 7-6 (5).
After alternating holds on service games early in the third set, Gibbs owned a 3-2 advantage. Wearing white as the higher seed, Gibbs moved ahead 5-2 before Burdette held and cut the deficit to 5-3 before Gibbs eventually closed out the match.
It was the third singles title of the year for Gibbs, who also won the Pac-12 Championships crown in April and the ITA Northwest Regional Championships title (against Burdette in three sets) in October.
With the victory, Gibbs is expected to earn a wildcard etnry into the main singles draw of this year's U.S. Open in New York.
- - - - - - -
NOTES: Stanford's 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) ... Gibbs will try to become only the third Stanford player to claim collegiate singles and doubles championships during the same season, with Kathy Jordan capturing AIAW titles in 1979 and Linda Gates pulling off the NCAA double in 1985 ... Gibbs finished the year 41-5 overall, 21-2 in duals, 20-3 in tournament matches and 29-8 against nationally-ranked opponents ... Gibbs was a team-best 9-3 this year in three-set matches ... Gibbs is now 87-11 overall during her first two years on The Farm ... The only players to defeat Nicole Gibbs this year were: Duke's Beatrice Capra, Miami's Anna Bartenstein, Florida's Joanna Mather, Florida's Allie Will and UCLA's Robin Anderson ... Monday marked the second time this year in which Burdette and Gibbs had squared off for a singles championship. Gibbs outlasted Burdette 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (3) to win the singles title of the ITA Northwest Regional Championships back in October ... Burdette finished the year 41-7 overall, 19-1 in duals, 22-6 in tournament matches and 23-7 against nationally-ranked opponents ... Burdette enjoyed similar hot stretches at times this year. She notched a career-best 21-match winning streak from Jan. 15-April 28, and won 11 straight matches without dropping a set from March 30-April 28 ... Burdette won her first career singles title in October, claiming the consolation crown at the Riviera/ITA All-American Championships ... Burdette and Gibbs are attempting to bring home Stanford's 15th overall collegiate doubles title in school history, and eighth since the since the NCAA adopted its current format in 1982.
- - - - - - -
On the match...
"It's always a very tough situation to be playing your teammate, and then I got down 6-2, 4-1 to a girl that has been playing incredible tennis, but I just didn't let myself give up from that point. I had worked too hard and come too far in this tournament to just lay down, but at the same time I got very lucky to turn that match around. I still consider myself very lucky for that win."
On competing against her teammate...
"I got to look that pain of losing in the eye in the second set just being down 4-1, 5-4, 5-2 in the breaker. So, I know how tough that is and I wouldn't wish that on my teammate in any other situation. I'm happy that I won but I'm also sad for her as well."
On what gave her a push to win in the last two sets...
"She was not going to be someone that I was going to overpower out there. I just had to use as much grit as I had to kind of claw my way back into the match and that's all I could do. Just play defense to the best of my ability and take my advantage whenever she gave me an opportunity on offense."
"I'm really proud of the week that I've had here. Hats off to Nicole (Gibbs) for playing a great match in the finals."
On the loss hurting more to a teammate...
"I don't think that has anything to do with the hurt; it's all the same all around."
On whether Nicole picked it up or Mallory tapered off...
"I was feeling it a little out there, but I think Nicole is very good at stepping it up when her opponent is about to close things out.That's her specialty, and she definitely made it tough for me out there in the end. I didn't have the guts to finish it today."
Head Coach Lele Forood
On the coaching approach used during an all-Stanford singles match...
"Well, I've been through that a few times. The hard thing is to find somewhere to sit and not fidget too much watching it all. It's really unusual to watch. I was not surprised at the length of the singles match because I've seen them play once already this year in a final and it was similar. It was a little bit unusual."
On Stanford's historic day...
"Today's probably one of the biggest days in our program's history. It's very exciting, especially because no one's graduating. So, we go forward from here. It's quite an amazing day. It's hard to play your teammate in such a big moment and then to come back and double with them to a title. That's a testament to how mature they both are and that they could do what they had to do today."
- - - - - - -
No. 3 Nicole Gibbs
First Round: d. No. 22 Emily Fraser (Virginia) 6-0, 6-2
Second Round: d. No. 21 Joanna Mather (Florida) 3-6, 6-4, 6-3
Round of 16: d. No. 35 Natalie Pluskota (Tennessee) 7-6 (1), 7-6 (6)
Quarterfinals: d. No. 8 Jana Juricova (California) 6-2, 7-5
Semifinals: d. No. 1 Allie Will (Florida) 6-2, 4-6, 6-3
Championship: d. No. 5 Mallory Burdette (Stanford) 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3
No. 5 Mallory Burdette
First Round: d. No. 120 Maria Craciun (South Carolina State) 6-1, 6-1
Second Round: d. No. 17 Denise Dy (Washington) 6-1, 6-2
Round of 16: d. No. 14 Zoe Scandalis (USC) 6-0, 6-3
Quarterfinals: d. No. 2 Beatrice Capra (Duke) 6-3, 6-2
Semifinals: d. No. 13 Zsofi Susanyi (California) 6-2, 6-2
Championship: lost to No. 3 Nicole Gibbs (Stanford) 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3
No. 2 Mallory Burdette and Nicole Gibbs
First Round: d. No. 50 Hilary Bartlett/Lindsay Graff (Princeton) 6-1, 6-1
Round of 16: d. No. 26 Natalie Beazant/Dominique Harmath (Rice) 6-2, 6-2
Quarterfinals: d. No. 32 Lorraine Guillermo/Khunpak Issara (Pepperdine) 6-1, 6-3
Semifinals: d. No. 10 Natalie Pluskota/Kata Szekely (Tennessee) 7-6 (1), 6-1
Championship: d. No. 27 Nadja Gilchrist/Chelsey Gullickson (Georgia) 6-2, 6-4