Men's Tennis Takes Two

Needing wins at the top two singles positions to have any chance to win the match, Alex Vlaski and Christoph Palmanshofer both came through with clutch wins in third set tiebreaks as the 19th ranked Huskies came from behind to stun 29th ranked California 4-3 in a thrilling men's Pac-10 match before a capacity, standing room only crowd at the Nordstrom Tennis Center on Saturday, March 26.

The victory capped a weekend sweep of Stanford and California by the Huskies, who improved to 2-0 in the Pac-10 and 14-3 overall while California dropped to 1-1 in the conference and 7-8 overall.

In a match originally scheduled for the outdoor courts of Bill Quillian Stadium but moved indoors due to rain, the Bears gave the Huskies all they could handle, as they swept #4, #5 and #6 singles to take a 3-2 lead. Tyler Browne put the first point on the board for the Bears at #5 with a 6-3, 6-2 win over Andy Kuharszky. Ken Nakahara followed with a 6-4,6-3 win over Peter Scharler at #6, and Daniel Sebescen got the Bears to within one point of the upset with a 6-4,6-2 defeat of Daniel Chu at #4.

Despite winning in doubles and getting a 6-3, 6-2 win from Alex Slovic over Patrick Briaud in #3 singles, the Huskies would only prevail if Vlaski won in the featured singles match and Palmanshofer at #2.

Vlaski won the the first set 6-4, but Niland came back to win the second set 6-2. In the third set Vlaski broke Niland's serve twice, first to take a 3-2 lead and again to go up 4-3, but both times Niland broke right back. Niland then held serve to go up 5-4 and 6-5, both times forcing Vlaski to serve just to stay in the match, and Vlaski did just that, eventually forcing the match as far as it could go, to a tiebreak. Niland looked like he would put Vlaski away and give the Bears the upset when he went ahead 5-2, but he could not apply the knockout punch as Vlaski battled back and eventually won 11-9, much to the delight of the partisan crowd.

Mere moments after the win by Vlaski tied the match at three points apiece, Palmanshofer prevailed in a third set tiebreak to finish a terrific duel against Lennart Maack. He had four match points at 6-2 and converted the first one when he ripped a forehand return of serve into the ad corner and Maack could only manage to hit a weak backhand into the net. When the ball failed to clear the net, his teammates, led by Vlaski, raced onto the court to mob Palmanshofer.

In the first set, Palmanshofer took a 2-0 lead with an early break of Maack, but Maack broke right back for 1-2, and the two held serve to 5-5. Maack proceeded to break serve for a 6-5 lead when Palmanshofer hit a backhand volley wide. However, with the chance to serve for the set, Maack could not capitalize. He faced two break points at 15-40, and despite saving both with a pair of forehand winners, he double faulted to give Palmanshofer another break point, and this time the Husky converted, winning the game and forcing a tiebreak with a backhand topspin lob winner.

In a close, hard fought tiebreak, Palmanshofer had the biggest lead at 5-3, and both players had set points. Maack had the first chance at 6-5 but Palmanshofer saved it with a forehand winner. Then when Palmanshofer had his own set point at 7-6, Maack saved it with a forehand winner down the line in the ad court. Palmanshofer then committed two unforced errors to give Maack the set 7-6 (9-7). In the second set, Palmanshofer prevailed 6-4. One break of serve made the difference, and Palmanshofer got it in the seventh game, rallying from a 40-15 deficit to win four consecutive points,the final one on a forehand volley winner. In the 10th game, Maack had two break chances to get back on serve, but Palmanshofer saved the first with a service winner and the second with a terrific forehand overhead smash that landed on the line. Maack originally called the ball out. However, the umpire overruled the call and awarded the point to Palmanshofer, and he proceeded to win the next two points and the set with a pair of backhand volley winners.

In the third set, Palmanshofer got three service breaks, to go ahead 2-1, 4-3 and 6-5, but each time Maack broke back, with the third and final break forcing the decisive tiebreak. Remarkably, the tiebreak was more one sided than the rest of the match, as Palmanshofer won the first three points on a Maack double fault and a pair of volley winners. Maack won his only two points of the tiebreak to close to 3-2, but Palmanshofer won the next four points to emerge victorious and end the four and half hour match, what some in attendance described as "the best they have seen."

In doubles, Washington won at #1 as Slovic and Chu won the last four games in an 8-4 win over Briaud and Niland, but Maack and Dean Wallace beat Kuharszky and Mike Ricks 8-6 at #3. That brought the doubles point down to the #2 match between Vlaski and Palmanshofer and Browne and Sebescen. Perhaps providing an omen of what would come in singles, Vlaski and Palmanshofer clinched the doubles for the Huskies with a dramatic 9-8 (7-5) win. The Huskies broke Browne in the 11th game to take a 6-5 lead, but the Bears came right back with a break of Palmanshofer to knot the set at 6. Both duos traded holds through the next four games, forcing the match to a tiebreak. The Bears took a 4-1 lead, but the Huskies gained a 4-4 tie on a forehand volley winner by Vlaski and a pair of forehand overhead winners by Palmanshofer. Browne put the Bears ahead 5-4 with a forehand overhead of his own, but the Huskies won the next three points, the final one on a forehand winner by Vlaski, to secure the doubles point.


On Friday, March 25, the Huskies opened the Pac-10 season in less dramatic but nonetheless fine fashion with a 5-2 upset over 10th ranked Stanford at Bill Quillian Stadium.

The Huskies got off to a great start, winning the doubles point in a sweep. In the featured match, Slovic and Chu, playing only their second match in the top position, upset the defending NCAA champions and third ranked KC Corkery and Sam Warburg 8-3. After Slovic and Corkery both held serve for a 1-1 tie, the Huskies won five consecutive games, including two on service breaks, to take a commanding 6-1 lead.

At #2, Palmanshofer and Vlaski defeated Phil Kao and Phil Sheng 8-5 to clinch the doubles point, and then Kuharszky and Ricks completed the sweep with an 8-6 win over Eric McKean and James Wan at #3.

In singles, Stanford won the first point to tie the match at 1 when Wan beat Chris Floyd 6-0, 6-1 at #4, but the Huskies won the next three points to secure only their third win in 32 matches all-time against the Cardinal. At #3, Slovic beat Sheng 6-3, 6-1. At #2, Palmanshofer defeated Corkery 7-5, 6-2, and at #5, Kuharszky rallied from a set down to beat McKean 4-6, 6-4, 6-2.

Peter Scharler put the Huskies up 5-1 with a 6-1,6-7,6-4 win over Phil Kao at #6, leaving the final point on court 1 in the featured singles match between Warburg, ranked #2 in the nation, and Vlaski. With victory already assured for the Huskies, the match went to a super-tiebreak after Warburg won the first set 6-4 and Vlaski the second 6-3. In the tiebreak, Warburg led 7-2 and finally prevailed when Vlaski retired due to cramping.

In the first set, Vlaski broke Warburg in the opening game and led 3-1, but Warburg rallied to win four straight games and take a 5-3 lead. Warburg then had a chance to serve for the set but Vlaski broke him, coming up with three winners. In the 10th game, Warburg had four set points on Vlaski's serve and finally won the set on the fourth chance with an inside out forehand crosscourt passing shot.

In the second set,Vlaski and Warburg traded breaks through the first four games before Warburg held for a 3-2 lead. Vlaski then won the next four games, two with service breaks, to claim the set. In the ninth game, Warburg saved four set points, two on Vlaski unforced errors and two on winners, but he allowed Vlaski to even the match at one set apiece when he hit a forehand beyond the baseline. In the super-tiebreak, Warburg took a commanding 7-2 lead as Vlaski committed five unforced errors, four of them on his forehand. Vlaski then requested an injury timeout due to cramps, but after a few minutes, decided to retire and concede the match.

With the sweep of California and Stanford, the Huskies finished the first weekend of the Pac-10 season tied for first in the conference with #5 UCLA and USC at 2-0. They next face arguably their toughest matches of the season when they travel to Los Angeles to face the Bruins on Friday, April 1 at 1:30 p.m. and the Trojans on Saturday, April 2, also at 1:30.


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