The Wake Forest men’s tennis team rode the coattails of its singles players all season as they tried to defend its national championship.
After winning the doubles point against No. 2 Texas on Sunday, the No. 4 Deacons didn’t win a singles point and lost 4-1 in the NCAA Championship in Orlando, Fla.
“The boys battled hard. They left it all out there,” Coach Tony Bresky of Wake Forest said. “Texas was too good today, but credit to them. Amazing year, but obviously not the finish that we wanted.”
The Deacons (34-4) won the doubles point for just the second time in the six matches during the NCAA Tournament, which is something they’ve struggled with all season. Before Sunday’s match, they had lost 13 doubles points, yet won 12 of those matches.
But the singles for the Deacons didn’t pull through against the Longhorns, who won their first men’s tennis championship. The Deacons didn’t pick up a singles win since the Round of 16 match against Oklahoma in the 2016 NCAA Tournament in Tulsa.
“To be honest, we just ran out of fumes,” Bresky said. “We actually got off to some great starts. You know, we were up a break at 1, up a break at 2, up a couple breaks at 3, up a break at 4, up a break at 5 and up a break at 6. So we really had a chance. I think if we maybe pull one more first set, the scoreboard looks a little different.”
After jumping to a quick start, Wake Forest only won two of the first sets in the singles matches — Petros Chrysochos led Yuya Ito 6-3 after the first set at No. 2 and No. 4 Rrezart Cungu led Harrison Scott 6-2 after the first set.
“Texas just kept fighting and clawed their way back and they grabbed the momentum and ran with it,” Bresky said.
Texas (29-3) tied the match after Christian Sigsgaard defeated Borna Gojo 6-3, 6-4 at No. 1. Texas took the lead at No. 6 after Rodrigo Banzer upended Siddhant Banthia 7-5, 6-4. The Longhorns followed that by taking a 3-1 lead after Colin Markes defeated Melios Efstathiou 6-4, 7-5.
Cungu pushed his lead to a set and 4-1 with two breaks against Scott, but Scott got the second set to a tiebreak and won 7-6 (5).
“Rezzy at 4 played great,” Bresky said. “He was up the whole time, and maybe if could’ve finished that match maybe it changes things a little bit. Their guy just fought back. That really helped them out even though that match didn’t finish. For sure if we could’ve put one or two on the board, I think that would’ve changed the way it looked.”
Cungu continued to struggle in the third set and fell behind love-5 before it was halted after Ito clinched the title for Texas after defeating Chrysochos, the defending national champion in singles, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
“I think their guy just really picked it up,” Bresky said of Cungu’s match. “Rezzy was 3-0, 40-love and didn’t quite get that. It kind of changed the momentum of the match. Credit to their guy for just battling hard and staying in there.”
In addition, at No. 3 singles, Leonardo Telles of the Longhorns led Bar Botzer 6-3, 6-7 (8), 1-0 when that match was halted after the Longhorns clinched the overall match.
“For us, obviously, when we win the doubles we feel like we’re the best team in the country,” Bresky said. “Not to take anything away from Texas at all. They were a well-deserving champion, but we ran out of (gas). That’s all there is to it.
“We had an emotional, tough match (Saturday in a 4-3 win against North Carolina in the semifinals). We just didn’t recover quite as we wanted to, and it certainly showed as the match progressed.”
Despite the loss, Bresky took some positives from the last two seasons.
“It’s been amazing,” Bresky said. “I think we feel fortunate that we’ve been able to play in all these big moments − ACC finals, NCAA finals, National Indoor finals. It’s a great experience for these guys, something they’ll never forget.”