URBANA, Ill. - South Carolina junior Tsvetan Mihov advanced to the second round of the NCAA Singles Championship at Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex at the University of Illinois with a three-set win over No. 2 Alex Domijan of Virginia. It marked just the sixth time in program history that a Gamecock defeated an opponent ranked among the top two in the nation, the last coming in 2009.
"This was a huge win for Tsvetan and a great win for South Carolina tennis as well," South Carolina head coach Josh Goffi said. "He came out and really executed a simple, but effective game plan. Domijan is a great college player who likes to use his wingspan to play, and Tsvetan was able to take that away by playing right at him. He made adjustments throughout the match, but Tsvetan was able to continue to execute and that style wore on Domijan late in the match. Tsvetan was able to control the third set, which is hard against a high seed. But he got stronger and better as the match progressed."
Mihov, ranked 31st in the nation, sprinted into the match, breaking Domijan at Love in the opening game. The Gamecock junior was in complete control of the first set, fighting off a break point on his serve and carrying that into a second break of Domijan to take a 5-2 lead. The Cavaliers' 6-foot-7 junior rallied to break back and held easily in the next game. Mihov again served for the set, and again Domijan pressured him, holding off the first set point and turning into a break point moments later. Mihov got back to deuce and closed out the set 6-4 when Domijan misfired on a pair of tough shots.
In the second set, the two traded service breaks four games in, but Domijan continued the trend with a second break to take a 4-2 lead, which he held to win the set 6-3.
Mihov struggled to find the range on his serve early in the third set as a pair of double faults put him in a hole in the first game. After getting broken and then trailing 30-Love in the next game, the Bulgarian rallied to get back on serve. He held with relative ease to take a 2-1 lead, but fell behind Domijan 40-Love in the fourth game of the set. Mihov chipped away at his opponent, though, winning four straight points and closing out the break with a dipping, cross-court backhand that Domijan could not handle at the net. From there, Mihov was rolling, holding at Love to go up 4-1. Two games later, Domijan was serving to stay in the match, but Mihov kept his foot on the gas. After winning the first point, he went up Love-30 on a Domijan double fault. An overhead set up triple match point, though he only needed one as he scorched a forehand up the line and out of reach for the 6-4 victory.
"It is tough to play a second seed, tough mentally," Mihov said. "But I knew that he had played all week and may be mentally tired today. I wanted to out-work him, and I was able to do that. In the third set, it was important to stay in the game mentally and do my best. I played good points in the beginning of the set to break serve and played the important points well. In the end, I just stayed mentally composed to win."
Mihov advances to play No. 36 Robert Quiroz from Southern Cal on Thursday. He will also open play in the Doubles Championship bracket as he and Chip Cox will face off against Moritz Buerchner and Norbert Nemcsek of North Florida.
Live stats and video of all matches is available at www.fightingillini.com/ncaatennis2013/.