Arkansas’ Johansson Captures Singles Title at
BY ANDRES FOCIL
PIKESVILLE, Md. — Arkansas senior Oskar Johansson beat Virginia’s Brian Vahaly 5-7, 7-5, 6-2 in the men’s singles final today at the T. Rowe Price National Intercollegiate Clay Court Championships, the opening leg of the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Grand Slam hosted by the Suburban Club of Baltimore County.
Johansson, who improves to 10-0 this season, is the first Arkansas player to win a national singles title since Joey Blake won the 1986 Rolex National Indoor title. Two other Razorbacks have captured national singles titles — Chip Hooper (’81 Rolex National Indoor) and Peter Doohan (’82 ITA All-American). Johansson is the first Arkansas player to reach a national singles final since Mike Brown lost to Michigan’s MaliVai Washington in the ’88 ITA All-American final. Arkansas’ Tom Hamilton and Tim Crichton won the ’96 T. Rowe Price National Clay Court doubles title (and reached the ’97 final).
Johansson let 5-3 leads slip away in the first set of the 2 hour, 31 minute final. He trailed 5-4 in the second set, but was able to win the final three games of the set to push the match into a third set. In the third, he broke Vahaly’s serve in the first and fifth games to pull away. All told, he won nine of the last 11 games of the match.
“(In the third set) I could hit the ball anywhere I wanted to and it was such a great feeling,” Johansson said. “I was tired, but since I was hitting the ball in every time I was feeling great and just enjoying being out there.”
“It was probably on of the greatest performances in singles that I’ve seen under the circumstances – final of a grand slam against Vahaly who is so good on clay and has all the experience in the world,” Arkansas coach Robert Cox said. “What I’m proud of is that Oskar didn’t get frustrated, because you can easily get frustrated against a player like Vahaly. (Johansson) played Razorback Tennis and I’m proud of him.”
Five of Johansson’s, who is No. 9 in the WingspanBank.com national singles rankings, six wins this week were over players in the Top 75. He beat the nation’s No. 3, 10, 40, 61 and 70 players en route to the title. This is his second title in as many weeks as he opened the season winning the River Oaks Invitational in Houston last weekend.
Johansson, a senior from Malmo, Sweden, lost to Vahaly in their only other previous college meeting in the second round of last year’s ITA All-American Championships in Austin, Texas. Vahaly has now lost in his two collegiate grand slam final appearances (he lost to Stanford’s K.J. Hippensteel in the ’99 ITA All-American).
The second leg of the ITA Grand Slam takes place next month. The ITA Men’s All-American Championships are Oct. 12-15 in Stone Mountain, Ga., and the Riviera Women’s All-American Championships are Oct. 19-22 in Pacific Palisades, Calif.
No player has ever won all four legs of the ITA Grand Slam since its inception in 1986. This will be the last season that a player will have an opportunity to win all four legs as the third leg of the collegiate grand slam — the Rolex National Indoor Championships — will move into the fall next season (2001-02) and this opening leg — the T. Rowe Price National Clay Court Championships — will be discontinued. Arizona State’s Sargis Sargsian (1994-95) and San Diego’s Zuzana Lesenarova (1998-99) are the only players to even win three of the four legs.
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