URBANA, ILL. -- Experience and calm won the day for the the No. 4 seeded USC men's tennis team in its NCAA Round of 16 matchup with Baylor. The Bears' snagged the doubles point to heap pressure on the Trojans in singles, but the four-time defending national champions proved up to the early test. USC rolled up four straight singles wins -- all tough battles -- to lock in with a 4-1 victory that pushes USC into the Quarterfinals for the seventh straight year. Singles wins from Emilio Gomez, Eric Johnson and Roberto Quiroz were wrapped up by USC clincher extraordinaire Yannick Hanfmann in a three-set comeback to secure the victory. In pursuit of a fifth consecutive NCAA title, the Trojans improve their to 26-4 overall with today's win over Baylor at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Urbana, Ill.
"I think we can say the tournament has started for sure," USC
head coach Peter Smith said. "It was great for us to match Baylor's intensity. We played from behind for three hours but we really came through in the end. It was a great battle."
A tight doubles point broke in Baylor's favor, as the Bears made a late surge to capture the first point of the day. USC registered the first victory of the match when Emilio Gomez and Roberto Quiroz pulled out a late break to push past Maytin/Pradella on court two for an 8-5 decision in the Trojans' favor. On the other two courts, the Trojans were up against a wall, though, facing match points after falling down a break on both courts. One more break by the Bears tallied an 8-5 win over USC's de Vroome/Johnson at the No. 3 spot, putting the pressure on court one. There, USC's #37 Hanfmann/Sarmiento were trying to fend off Baylor, which was set up on the service line and holding match point. The Bears got that one, 8-6, to wrap up doubles action and put a point in Baylor's column on the way into singles play.
In singles play, the courts would win up split on first sets, with USC claiming the first-set advantage on courts 1, 4 and 5 while Baylor snagged opening sets at the Nos. 2, 3 and 6 spots. The future was murky for the defending champs for a long while. But a big spark came from #7 Emilio Gomez, who had been down a break in hist first set against Baylor's #24 Patrick Pradella. Trailing 2-4, Gomez battled back and went up 5-4 in the first. He was trailing Pradella 15-40 as another tie-up looked eminent, but Gomez gathered up steam and stole the set 6-4. He'd stay hot through the second set, creating some key room on Pradella and charging to a 6-4, 6-2 win that put an all-important point on the board for the Trojans from court one.
Across the way, USC's #36 Roberto Quiroz had cruised in his first set against #109 Tony Lupieri but would find himself in a tough spot in the second, down 2-5. Quiroz found a spark of his own to tie it up 5-5, only to see Lupieri hold next to make it 5-6. Quiroz would force the tiebreaker, though, holding serve to lock it up again and then taking full control in the tiebreaker to snag another point for the Trojans on a 6-2, 7-6 (2) win that got USC on top 2-1. There was plenty of tennis left to play, however. #16 Ray Sarmiento had answered back against #55 JUlian Lenz to bring up a third set on court two, and #45 Yannick Hanfmann had done the same on court four. At the No. 5 spot, meanwhile, #90 Eric Johnson had work to do to dig out from down a break in the second, having won the first but back 4-5 in the second. On court six, Jonny Wang was hanging tough in his second set with Marko Krikovic.
Johnson managed the break and hold to pull even on Diego Galeano, then stole away another break for a 6-4 lead that put him on the service line to hold for the win, making it 3-1 Trojans with his 6-3, 7-5 victory. Sarmiento, Hanfmann and Wang were still plugging away, with Hanfmann looking at a 4-5 deficit late in his third set against #84 Mate Zsiga. Hanfmann -- clincher of last year's NCAA Championship -- again held his ground. The sophomore stepped to the service line and held to make it 5-5, then pulled out a break to serve for it. He'd surrender nothing in that last game, and hauled in the clinching victory on a 3-6, 6-1, 7-5 comeback that punched the Trojans' ticket to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the seventh straight season.
USC will face No. 5 seed Ohio State in the Quarterfinals at 4 p.m. CT on Saturday (May 18) at the University of Illinois' Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex.
2013 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex • Urbana, Ill.)
Round of 16 - Thursday, May 16
 USC 4, Baylor 1
(1) #63 Galeano/Zsiga (BAY) def. #37 Hanfmann/Sarmiento (USC) - 8-6
(2) #46 Gomez/Quiroz (USC) def. Maytin/Pradella (BAY) - 8-5
(3) Lenz/Lupieri (BAY) def. de Vroome/Johnson (USC) - 8-5
Baylor wins doubles point.
Order of finish: 2, 3, 1
(1) #7 Emilio Gomez (USC) def. #24 Patrick Pradella (BAY) - 6-4, 6-2
(2) #16 Ray Sarmiento (USC) vs. #55 Julian Lenz (BAY) - 4-6, 6-3, 1-3 susp.
(3) #45 Yannick Hanfmann (USC) def. #84 Mate Zsiga (BAY) - 3-6, 6-1, 7-5*
(4) #36 Roberto Quiroz (USC) def. #109 Tony Lupieri (BAY) - 6-2, 7-6 (2)
(5) #90 Eric Johnson (USC) def. Diego Galeano (BAY) - 6-3, 7-5
(6) Jonny Wang (USC) vs. Marko Krickovic (BAY) - 4-6, 5-6 susp.
Order of finish: 1, 4, 5, 3*