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2013 ITA/USTA Men’s NIIC Round of 32 Preview
Wednesday, 11/06/2013
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by Bobby Knight. Pictured UCLA's Marcos Giron

It's time for the 2nd major of the year as many of the top players descend upon the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in New York City for the 2013 USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships.  It will be a strange sight not to see any Virginia Cavaliers in the draw but that is just what we have after 2012 champ Jarmere Jenkins graduated, 2011 champ Mitchell Frank decided to play Challengers in Knoxville and Champaign, and 2-time All American champ Alex Domijan is healing from a broken foot.  The field hasn’t been this wide open since 2008 (Koniecko) with no clear-cut favorite so it ought to be 4 very interesting days of tennis.

Let’s go ahead and take a look at the opening round of singles matches below.  If my predictions come true 3 of the top 4 seeds will get eliminated on Day 1. 

#1 Patrick Pradella (Baylor) vs. Mikelis Libietis (Tennessee) – Libietis is the preseason #1 and could easily have been the #1 seed here but he didn’t get seeded due to not winning his Regional (retired up a set versus his teammate) and losing in the 2nd round of the All Americans (under the weather).   Pradella was ranked 16th in the preseason and made it to the quarterfinals of the All Americans before losing to eventual runner-up Guillermo Alcorta.  I think we’ll see the top seed get upset as Libietis gets it done in straights and looks to improve on his quarterfinal appearance from a year ago.  Prediction:  Libietis in 2

Peter Kobelt (Ohio State) vs. Ray Sarmiento (USC) – Kobelt struggled at the All Americans with a 1st round loss to Sarmiento’s teammate Jonny Wang but then was able to rebound and win the Midwest Regional.  Sarmiento lost in the round of 16 at the All Americans to Jared Hiltzik and had to withdraw from the Southwest Regional due to an injury but was granted a Wild Card by the ITA.  These 2 seniors met last year at #2 singles in the NCAA Team Quarterfinals and on that day Kobelt outlasted Sarmiento 7-6 7-6 (video below) so I’d expect this one to be a close one as well.  Prediction:  Kobelt in 3

#5 Gonzales Austin (Vanderbilt) vs. Henry Craig (Denver) – Austin gained direct entry by making it to the semifinals of the All Americans after beating 4 tough competitors (Efferding, Campbell Johnson, Contini, Austin Smith) while Craig won the Mountain Regional with a win over New Mexico’s Iftikhar in the finals.  Anything other than straight sets win by Austin would be a surprising result.  Prediction:  Austin in 2

Joran Vliegen (East Carolina) vs. Dane Webb (Oklahoma) – Vliegen has had a nice fall thus far with 5 wins over top 70 opponents (Kobelt, Bogaerts, Redlicki, Diep, Bjerrehus) with 2 of those coming in route to him winning the Carolina Regional while Webb gets in as an at-large pick after losing to his teammate Axel Llamas in the finals of the Central Regional.   If Vliegen can come out and play at the same level he did in the Carolina Regional he should take this one but you can’t underestimate Webb.   I think this could come down to a 3rd set tiebreak.  Prediction: Vliegen in 3

#4 Austin Smith (Georgia) vs. Greg Andrews (Notre Dame) – Smith has had a great fall going 15-3 including a quarterfinal appearance at the All Americans.  7 of those 15 wins have come over top 80 opponents and Smith has been great in pressure going 7-2 in tiebreaks though you have to wonder if Austin will be a little rusty with his last match coming back on October 5th.   Andrews, ND’s #1, has posted a 10-3 record this fall with a pair of top 20 wins (Hiltzik/Mihov) and he earned an at-large bid after falling in the final of the Midwest Regional to Peter Kobelt in a 3rd set tiebreaker.   I’m going to go with the upset here and take the experienced senior from Notre Dame.  Prediction:  Andrews in 3

Deni Zmak (Embry-Riddle) vs. Andrew Harris (Oklahoma) – Zmak, a sophomore from Croatia, qualified by winning the Small College Super Bowl with a tough win over Tyler JC’s Mate Cutura in the finals which makes him a perfect 10-0 this year after going 20-1 last year in his freshmen year.  Harris, a freshman from Melbourne, Australia, received the ITA Wild Card despite only playing 3 college matches this fall though he has had success on the ATP Futures Circuit with a recent title in Texas which included several wins over former top collegians (S. Singh, Nevolo, Krajicek).  Prediction:  Harris in 2

#8 Jared Hiltzik (Illinois) vs. Marcos Giron (UCLA) – This will be one of top matches of the 1st round with Hiltzik getting in based off his quarterfinal result at the All Americans while Giron gets the USTA Wild Card after a strong fall on the ATP Futures Circuit which included a 13-1 record in 3 September tournaments with 2 Titles.  Giron did miss the Regional Qualifiers in October with a hamstring injury so it’ll be interesting to see if he’s good to go.  This will be Marcos’s 2nd consecutive appearance at the NIIC with a quarterfinal appearance last year.  Hiltzik is capable of winning the match regardless of whether Giron is 100% but I think Marcos pulls through. Prediction: Giron in 2

Campbell Johnson (Cal) vs. Max Schnur (Columbia) – Johnson gained direct entry by winning the Northwest Regional while Schnur received the Host Wild Card after falling in the semifinals of the Northeast Regional.  While Schnur will be playing close to home I think Johnson breezes into the next round.  Prediction:  Johnson in 2

Brett Clark (North Carolina) vs. Malte Stropp (Mississippi State) – Clark gets in as an at-large after making it to the finals of the Carolina Regional while Stropp got an automatic berth by winning the Southern Regional.  Both players have definitely gained steam as the fall has progressed with Stropp winning 6 straight after dropping his 1st 4 while Clark has won 10 of 12 after splitting his 1st 4.  I think Clark will have just a little too much for Stropp and will advance to the next round.  Prediction:  Clark in 2

#7 Winston Lin (Columbia) vs. Alex Sarkissian (Pepperdine) – Lin got in by winning the Northeast Regional while Sarkissian received an at-large bid after falling in the finals of the Southwest Regional to USC’s Hanfmann.  Lin’s only loss this fall came in the Round of 16 of the All Americans to Virginia’s Mitchell Frank but I think we’re going to see loss #2 on Thursday.  Prediction:  Sarkissian in 3

Axel Alvarez (Oklahoma) vs. George Goldhoff (Texas) – Alvarez earned a main draw spot by winning the Central Regional over his teammate Dane Webb and is 14-2 in the fall while Goldhoff is in based off his impressive run to the quarterfinals at the All Americans after winning 6 matches in 6 days before falling to Baylor’s Julian Lenz.  Alvarez had a great freshmen year last year going 20-6 in the dual season after going 7-3 in the fall and I see a similar type of freshmen year for Goldhoff this year with George off to an 8-2 start in the fall.  This should be a very good match but I think the OU sophomore will be able to get through.  Prediction:  Alvarez in 3

#3 Julian Lenz (Baylor) vs. Nik Scholtz (Ole Miss) – This will be a rematch from the 2nd round of this year’s All Americans which saw Lenz come away with a 3 & 4 win which avenged a 2-6 7-6 6-2 loss to Scholtz last year in the dual season.  Lenz got his bid via a semifinal appearance in Tulsa while Scholtz earned an at-large after falling to Stropp in the Southern Regional Final.   Lenz already has 4 wins this fall over NIIC participants (Pradella, Galeano, Goldhoff, Scholtz) while Scholtz has 1 (Sarkissian).  Both competed in the National Indoors last year with each exiting in the 2nd round so neither should be in awe of the surroundings.  I’m going to go with the hotter hand in this one.  Prediction:  Lenz in 2

Carlos Lopez Villa (Old Dominion) vs. Samir Iftikhar (New Mexico) – ODU’s #1 Villa earned his spot by winning the Atlantic Regional while Iftikhar snagged the last at-large bid as the Mountain Regional runner-up after Virginia’s Mitchell Frank dropped out.  I think Villa will overpower Iftikhar and use some of his big match experience to pull this out in straights.  Prediction:  Villa in 2

#6 Clay Thompson (UCLA) vs. Diego Galeano (Baylor)  - Thompson earned his spot by winning the consolation draw at the All Americans while Galeano made a surprising run through the Texas Regional including back to back 3 sets wins in the semis and finals over Texas A&M’s Efferding and Vinsant.  Thompson comes into this one with a 13-1 record in the fall with 8 of those wins over ranked opponents while Galeano has posted an 8-2 record with 4 wins over ranked opponents.  Both of these guys played in the lower half of their team’s lineup last year and are looking to move up this year.  I like the 6’6 senior from Venice Beach in this one.  Prediction:  Thompson in 2

Nathan Pasha (Georgia) vs. Hunter Reese (Tennessee) – Pasha qualified by winning the Southeast Regional though he didn’t face any ranked opponents along the way while Reese won the Ohio Valley Regional when his teammate Mikelis Libietis retired in the 2nd set.  Pasha started out the fall strong by winning his 1st 7 matches then dropped his next 3 before winning his last 6.  Reese has also been a bit up and down with him winning 3 of his first 4, and then dropping 3 of his next 4, before winning his last 6.  Anything other than a 3-setter between these 2 Atlanta natives would be a surprise.   Prediction:  Pasha in 3

#2 Guillermo Alcorta (Oklahoma) vs. Yannick Hanfmann (USC) – Alcorta earned his spot by making it to the finals of the All Americans, which included 4 wins over top 40 opponents (Piro, Quiroz, Pradella, Austin) while Hanfmann won the Southwest Regional by only dropping 1 set along the way.  Neither player has played in more than 1 tournament this year so each will be equally rested.  I think we’ll see an upset here as the big hitting junior from SC will surprise Alcorta in straight sets.  Prediction:  Hanfmann in 2.

You can follow along with the Live Scoring link provided by Columbia and there will be a Live Chat hosted by the USTA.  All the draw information is linked here courtesy of the ITA.