by Bobby Knight. Pictured Oklahoma's Axel Alvarez
Friday brought us another round of surprises with some of the old guard showing that they still have plenty of game left while a pair of sophomores continue to take their games to the next level. USC senior Ray Sarmiento won a pair of matches first taking out preseason #1 Mikelis Libietis (Tennessee) 7-5 7-5 and then following that up by defeating Vanderbilt’s Gonzales Austin 7-5 6-2. UCLA senior Clay Thompson knocked off Old Dominion’s Carlos Lopez Villa 6-4 6-2 and then upset the #2 seed Guillermo Alcorta (Oklahoma) 6-4 6-2. Oklahoma sophomore Axel Alvarez rocked the #3 seed Julian Lenz (Baylor) 6-1 6-0 and then beat the hometown favorite Columbia’s Winston Lin 6-3 6-3. Lastly it was Illinois sophomore Jared Hiltzik knocking off Cal’s Campbell Johnson 6-3 6-0 and then defeating a tired Andrew Harris (Oklahoma) 6-4 6-4. So far none of the semifinalists has yet to drop a set so something will have to give tomorrow afternoon. Let’s dive into those semifinal tilts.
#8 Jared Hiltzik (Illinois) vs. Ray Sarmiento (USC) – This will be a rematch from the Quarterfinals of the All Americans and on that October 4th day it was Hiltzik who rolled over Sarmiento 6-2 6-2 though Ray is playing some much better tennis at the moment after taking out 2 of the bigger servers in the game this week (Kobelt/Libietis). Hiltzik had previously reached the quarterfinals at the All Americans so this semifinal appearance will be a personal best at a major for 6’1 Wilmette (IL) sophomore. Sarmiento’s previous best result at a major was also the quarterfinals so the Rancho Cucamonga (CA) senior is looking to make that one final push to grab the hardware. Playing indoors seems to have brought out some of the best tennis from Sarmiento so I’m going to make it an all LA final. Prediction: Sarmiento in 3
#6 Clay Thompson (UCLA) vs. Axel Alvarez (Oklahoma) – This will be a rematch from the 1st round of the All Americans and in that encounter it was OU’s Alvarez handing Thompson his only loss of the fall taking it by a 6-4 6-7 6-1 score. Since that defeat, Thompson has been on a roll winning 13 straight and the 6’6 senior from Venice Beach (CA) is looking to make it 14 in a row. Alvarez comes into this match with a 17-2 record on the fall and has only dropped 11 games in his 1st 3 matches this week so the 6’3 sophomore from Asturias (Spain) will be ready to take that next step into the finals. This is a tough one to call and it’s hard to go against someone who only dropped 1 game to Julian Lenz but I think Clay Thompson is going to have his serve working on Saturday and will find a way to pull it out. Prediction: Thompson in 3