Oklahoma State captures ITA Indoors — Doha Media Day Quotes

The IX: Tennis Tuesday with Joey Dillon, Feb. 13, 2024

Howdy, y’all, and Happy Tennis Tuesday! While the WTA 1000 event in Doha, Qatar takes place this week, I still feel like it’s a bit of a lull in the tennis calendar. Is it just me? Perhaps it’s the conceited American in me that looks forward to Indian Wells and Miami. Anywho, one of my favorite parts of the year — college tennis season — is underway and yesterday marked the completion of the 2024 ITA Indoor National Championship, won by Oklahoma State. Last year, No. 1 North Carolina won their fourth consecutive title and honestly, they’re the GOAT of ITA Indoors with the last time they weren’t in an Indoors final was in 2014. Still, while the Tar Heels are and have been a step above the majority of teams, they’re not entirely invincible.

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For some background, 15 teams hosted four-team regional events with the winning team advancing to Seattle where they would battle it out. As host, the University of Washington received a wildcard in the sixteenth slot. Now, what unfolded was something that made me glad I didn’t do my infamous predictions.

However, if you’re reading this and don’t know anything about college tennis, let me break down the format. Play starts with the doubles point with three doubles matches being played with one set, no-ad scoring implemented. One a school has won two matches, play is halted and they go up 1-0. They then move onto singles, where there are six matches simultaneously played — again no-ad scoring but two-out-of three sets. Whenever a team earns their fourth overall point, everything else is abandoned. I will say, there is nothing like a collegiate tennis atmosphere when the score is tied 3-3 and it all comes down to one court. That’s what made me fall in love with it in 2007. It’s seriously a great way to see high-quality action in your hometown. Support your local colleges and universities!

First Round

Half of the draw received a seed and only two — No. 5 Pepperdine and No. 7 Georgia — were upset on Day 1. My lovely alma mater, (The) Ohio State bested 2023 runner-up Georgia in the lone 4-3 battle, while Virginia knocked out Pepperdine 5-2 where there happened to be a simultaneous clinch at the end. Texas and Michigan had tough 4-2 wins over Texas A&M and California, respectively, while 4-1 wins were clinched by North Carolina (over Southern California) and NC State (Washington). Oklahoma State routed Auburn while Stanford trounced Florida in what honestly looked like a 180 compared to the legendary battles they’ve had over the last 15 years.


This is where my brain probably exploded over the weekend, but No. 4 Michigan and No. 2 Stanford started the day with 4-1 wins over Virginia and Ohio State, respectively. The next two matches were textbook college tennis thrillers that still give me goosebumps. First was the upset of the year and I thought I could call it, but just wait. NC State, the No. 8 seed got revenge against North Carolina for the 2023 NCAA final with a gutsy third set tiebreak win from Anna Zyryanova, who saved match points to send the Wolfpack to the semifinals.

As if that drama wasn’t enough, Oklahoma State had their hands tied with No. 6 Texas. Their doubles point went down to the final court and that continued in singles. What was different about this epic is that the first five matches were all straight-sets, but the final court — court No. 4 — was a three-setter. Not only was it three sets, but the sets were long and grueling. LSU transfer Safiya Carrington held steady to outlast Charlotte Chavatipon 5-7, 7-5, 7-6(4) in nearly three hours to complete the final four.


With North Carolina out of the way, any of the remaining four squads could emerge with the title. To me, that’s something you want because it can get a bit boring with a dynasty constantly taking home the big titles.

NC State couldn’t spark another upset the next day and were a bit lethargic in a 4-1 loss to Michigan, giving the Wolverines (ughhhhhhh) their first berth in the Indoors championship. The two teams will meet later this month in Ann Arbor and I expect that match to be a lot closer, but I’m not 100% confident in saying NC State will get their own revenge. The other semifinal was a bit testier with Oklahoma State earning their first-ever win over Stanford, 4-2. The win also put the Cowgirls in their first ITA final.


On paper, you have No. 3 Oklahoma State and No. 4 Michigan pretty even in star power and both looking for their first national team title — indoors or outdoors. With their lineups being pretty even, the doubles point is perhaps the make-or-break moment for either team.

The Cowgirls pounced first by taking the doubles point with wins at Nos. 1 and 2, with court No. 3 being abandoned at 5-5. Remember when I (just) said how the doubles point is critical? It becomes even more apparent when both teams split the first sets down the middle, which is exactly what happened. However, Oklahoma State went up 2-0 with a 49-minute 6-0, 6-1 win from No. 5 Ange Oby Kajuru over No. 18 Julia Fliegner at No. 2 singles. At No. 6 singles, Kristina Novak put the Cowgirls a point from history with a 6-2, 6-4 victory over No. 57 Lily Jones. However, just one minute later, Piper Charney had her own upset at No. 5 singles taking out No. 46 Ayumi Miyamoto. Something to note, at this point of the match, Michigan had their three seniors left battling it out and that experience can produce big magic sometimes. Jaeden Brown cut the lead to 3-2 with another upset, this time over No. 122 Carrington, who battled from 5-1 and match points down to eventually succumb 6-4, 7-6(4) at No. 4 singles. Because it was inevitable, we finally had a three-setter to tie out the match when No. 124 Gala Mesochoritou came back to upset No. 54 Lucia Peyre, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4 to put all eyes on court No. 1.

Another LSU transfer, No. 17 Anastasiya Komar sealed the victory for Oklahoma state with (yet another) upset, this time over No. 9 Kari Miller, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 in two hours and four minutes:

The Cowgirls continue their historic season with a 9-0 record that includes eight wins over Top 15 opponents and four over those in the Top 6. Could they take the Big Dance when they host NCAAs in May? Time will tell, but I think North Carolina is the favorite. Though their 4-0 loss to Virginia — their first shutout since 2012 — in the consolation round is a bit concerning and even more shocking than their NC State loss. The Cowgirls breaking through though could be a fun spoiler, especially with that potential happy ending in Stillwater.

Till then, onto links!

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This Week in Women’s Tennis

Andy Brandi, one of the greatest collegiate coaches of all time who led Florida to three NCAA titles and 14 SEC championships in his 17-year career and mentored countless pros and coaches, passed away at 72 following a battle with cancer.

Elena Rybakina captured her second title of the year by taking the Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open with a straight-sets win over Daria Kasatkina. The doubles title was won by Bethanie Mattek-Sands and Sofia Kenin, who won their second title as a team with a win against Linda Noskova and Heather Watson .

At the Transylvania Open in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, Karolina Pliskova won her first singles title in four years, knocking out local hope Ana Bogdan in the championship. IX Friend Asia Muhammad teamed up with Caty McNally to knock out Harriet Dart and Tereza Mihalikova for the doubles crown.

At the WTA 125 L&T Mumbai Open, Darja Semenistaja saved championship points against Storm Hunter to win the biggest title of her career, while IX Friend Sabrina Santamaria teamed up with Dalila Jakupovic to claim the doubles title over Arianne Hartono and Prarthana Thombare.

Danielle Collins opened up a little about her decision to retire at the end of her career and gave some insight into what she envisions for retirement.

Mad props for Karolina Pliskova, because I can barely get out of bed, let alone survive this route:

She might be a mom on the comeback trail now, but Anastasija Sevastova’s quick wit and deadpan responses haven’t left.

Simona Halep defended her doping case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport and will await a verdict to see if her four-year ban will be overturned. A decision shouldn’t be announced for several weeks.

On the ITF World Tour, Maya Joint became the youngest Australian to win a W75 singles title, while Rebecca Marino captured the biggest title of her career in Irapuato, Mexico.

Martina Navratilova gave some takes on those playing in the Middle East, emphasizing how important the swing is for Ons Jabeur on and off the court.

Naomi Osaka got revenge for her Australian Open loss to Caroline Garcia and believes the “worst” of her comeback is behind her.

Bad news, Ajla Tomljanovic is out for a few weeks following a procedure, but the good news is that she used her platform to discuss her uterine fibroids — something we never think or discuss for female athletes.

Though they’re out with injuries currently, Jessica Pegula and Karolina Muchova headline the entry list for the WTA 500 event in San Diego next month ahead of Indian Wells.

If you’re trying to get your bearings ready for the Olympics, the wtatennis.com team has you covered.

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Tweet of the Week

This is so much funnier than it needs to be

Five at The IX: Doha Media Day

Q. As you just said, you are kind of like representing or you always talk about representing females and, like, minority people. Do you think that playing in, like, this kind of Middle East area can, you can give any messages or you can feel any connection from the spectators or especially young female girls who like to play sports or whatever?

COCO GAUFF: Yeah, I definitely feel when I play in places where there are more minorities, it does feel truthfully like a connection, and we all have different struggles in the world, depending on our race or background.

Hopefully it is something we can connect on, being different or being perceived different than how we actually are. So I do, you know, feel a connection a little bit here or just anyplace where I play where, you know, it’s more minorities. I feel like I feel that in the crowd here and I feel like when I’m walking around the site here, I feel like people connect with me on that.

You know, even though we are different, we look completely different, but being a minority in the world especially, you know, not so much in the Middle East but in the world, especially when I’m on the Western side of the world, it definitely is understanding.

So I think they understand that, and me being here, definitely I feel that connection. I do feel very welcome with the people here. I think the people are excited to have me here. That just makes me excited to play here.

Q. So you are No. 1 in WTA, which is maybe one of the most, like, most popular female sport in the world. I think the last year we have been talking about what is the responsibility of being No. 1 on the tour. So do you think that as a No. 1, do you feel like you have some, like, responsibility or do you have many plans to talk about your opinion or do you feel like take this No. 1 like this way?

IGA SWIATEK: Well, I feel like people expect us, you know, to sometimes take a stand and to, you know, be loud about what we think and our opinions.

But I always try to remember that if I don’t feel comfortable doing that, I can always just say that and, you know, mostly people respect that, journalists, you know, (smiling). But for sure there is some responsibility, even when I’m practicing or working, I feel like because I’m at the top of the WTA I should have some, you know, standards. Sometimes it’s a little bit harder to kind of take it easy, because you feel like everybody is chasing you.

But I’m also, you know, still trying to navigate through that. Yeah, there are some stuff that’s changed because of the position that you’re at, but on the other hand, I always try to remind myself that I’m still the same person no matter what my ranking is and no matter what the number next to my name is.

So, yeah, sometimes you feel like, yeah, the society kind of force you to do it differently than you would, but it’s good to remember who you are no matter what your ranking is (smiling).

Q. You had some tough words about your last match because you weren’t happy about the level. How difficult it is for you to juggle with your own expectations and maybe the reality that it’s going to take time, or maybe you thought it would come quicker? Is it mentally difficult to give yourself some grace?

NAOMI OSAKA: Yeah, I mean, it definitely is hard for me to not be tough on myself, but I think honestly after Abu Dhabi, I actually have more confidence in myself now, which is a little strange, but I think that, for me, was the worst thing that could happen.

I feel like since I have seen the worst that can happen, I think, like, everything else is a plus. In Australia I know that I said I was only going to play Dubai, so I feel like I have to take these tournaments as extra credit. Someone said to me it’s like a very expensive practice, so I don’t know, after they said that, I felt pretty optimistic (smiling).

Q. Of course you are kind of like representing female in Arabic region or Arabic culture. Throughout the years, you have been playing this area and every tournament. Do you think that you see more, like, female spectators or, like, more girls start playing tennis, kind of like progress or change? Do you think you see this?

ONS JABEUR: It’s definitely a progress. I see more and more women playing different sports, but for me, the most important thing, not just to play tennis but to do whatever they want. I don’t want to limit anyone to just playing tennis. I want them to do a different sport, I want them to be successful, I don’t know, businesswoman, doctors, anything, journalist.

You know, it’s very important to see that, to dare to dream. After all, is their dream, but I do see different women, youngers speaking to me about it.

I’m very happy, but I’m sure we can do much more and I’ll try to give that powerful message.

Mondays: Soccer
By: Annie Peterson, @AnnieMPeterson, AP Women’s Soccer
Tuesdays: Tennis
By: Joey Dillon, @JoeyDillon, Freelance Tennis Writer
Wednesdays: Basketball
By: Howard Megdal, @HowardMegdal, The Next
Thursdays: Golf
By: Addie Parker, @addie_parker, The IX
Fridays: Hockey
By: @TheIceGarden, The Ice Garden
Saturdays: Gymnastics
By: Lela Moore, @runlelarun, Freelance Writer

Written by Joey Dillon