Men’s Tennis’ Ciamarra and Harper win NCAA Doubles National Championship

Men’s Tennis’ Ciamarra and Harper win NCAA Doubles National Championship

Champaign, Ill. – Texas Men’s Tennis senior Richard Cimarra and sophomore Cleeve Harper won the men’s NCAA Doubles National Championship with a 5-7, 6-4, 1-0 (7) victory over No. 2 Matej Vocel and Robert Cash of Ohio State on Saturday at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Champaign, Ill.

It marks the seventh doubles title in UT history by six different pairs, and the first since 2015 when Lloyd Glasspool and SΓΈren Hess-Olesen won it. It is also just the second since 1944 when John Hickman and Felix Kelley won it, while Hickman and Walter Driver took it in 1943. The others include Bruce Barnes and Karl Kamrath in 1931, and back-to-back wins by Lewis White and Louis Thallheimer in 1923 and 1924.

“It was incredible,” head coach Bruce Berque said. “Those guys played so well throughout the whole tournament, probably their best tennis of the year. They’ve had some good results, but just from match to match we thought they played excellent tennis. Obviously, any time you can win a tournament of this caliber, you’ve got to be playing well and beat the best of the best. , and then today they lost the first set and were on the verge of being down and out a couple of times, but kept their composure and fought hard and played great tennis in big moments, and I couldn’t be happier for them.”

“It’s kind of funny, we didn’t end the season strong at all coming in,” Ciamarra said. “We earned the All-American honor, but I think Cleeve and I almost felt like we didn’t deserve it, not playing great doubles down the stretch. Even in the week leading up to we still weren’t playing great, but after We got a couple of matches under our belts and got back into our form, we played loose and played like every match was the end of the season because it actually was. I don’t really know how it happened, but it did, and we couldn’t be happier.”

“One of my goals was to try and get Ritchie a ring, and we were battling for it,” Harper added. “I don’t know how we did it, but we were able to come out on top in this tournament and played great together. It was a pleasure playing with Ritchie all year, so I’m just really happy to have gotten it done today.”

In a match worthy of an NCAA final, both of the first two sets were tight until the end with each team taking one to send it to a third-set superbreaker to decide it.

The first set opened with Ohio State picking up a break on the opening serve by Texas, but the Longhorns immediately answered and broke back on a deuce point to even it. That was the beginning of a stretch of three of the next four games going to deuce, and after Ciamarra and Harper consolidated their break on serve for a 2-1 lead, both teams held at deuce in the next two games to make it 3- 2. The following five games also stayed on serve with the last of those coming with Texas owning a 5-4 lead, but trailing 40-0 in the game. The Longhorns came all the way back to force deuce, but Ohio State held there, broke for a 6-5 lead and held again for the set.

Much like the first set, the second began with both teams earning a break, but this time both came at deuce point, starting with the Buckeyes, however Texas then held and another break for a 3-1 lead. Serving in the next game, the Longhorns found themselves down 0-40, and although they fought back to force it to deceive, Ohio State was eventually able to complete break and then hold to even it at 3-3. With the next three games staying on serve, Ciamarra and Harper came up with the additional break they needed at 6-4 to take the set and force the deciding superbreaker.

There, the Buckeyes began the frame with a mini-break and quickly pushed out to a 3-0 lead on serve, but the Longhorns responded by holding their two serves and securing a mini-break of their own to tie it. After Ohio State retook the lead on serve at 4-3, Texas set out on another 3-0 run capped by a min-break for 6-4. The next three points alternated, leaving the Longhorns up at 7-6, but the Buckeyes broke the string and registered a second-straight point for 7-7. However, it would be all Texas from there, as Ciamarra and Harper captured a final mini-break for the lead and then served out to 10-7 for the title.

“The coaches told us all year to take it one point at a time, so that’s what we did,” Harper said. “In a 10-point breaker, anything can happen, so we just stuck with our game. We knew we were a great returning team all along, so we just tried to take care of our serve in the next couple of points, and we Were able to get it back on serve and just played with a lot of energy, so that’s probably the main reason we were able to get out of that hole and come back and win that tiebreaker.”

“It was definitely a tough break in the first set, and obviously a couple of things didn’t go our way in the second, but like Bruce and (volunteer assistant coach) Austin (Rapp) were saying, just keep playing one point at a time, keep the energy up and trust ourselves,” Ciamarra said. “Obviously, we went down 0-3 in the breaker, which wasn’t a great start for us, and they just kept reinforcing those points and that there’s a lot of tennis to be played. We just played it point by point and got back and eventually got some momentum and ended up on top.

For the season, Ciamarra and Harper, who will earn ITA All-America honors when announced later in year, combined for a 24-10 overall record in 2021-22, including a 10-7 mark in dual match play with 12 of those decisions coming at No. 1 where they were 8-4. Although an injury forced Harper to miss several matches during the season, they are reunited for 12 of the last 13 in team competition with all but three of those at No. 1, earning the Big 12 Individual Championship at No. 1 1 doubles and All-Big 12 First Team honors. In the fall, they made a run to the finals of the ITA Texas Regionals. Ciamarra, a graduate transfer from Notre Dame, departs his one year at UT as a doubles National Champion, while Harper will return with two years of eligibility remaining.

2022 NCAA Men’s Tennis Doubles Championships
Complete Doubles Bracket

Doubles Finals – May 28
4 seed No. 4 Richard Cimarra/Cleeve Harper (UT) def. 2 seed No. 2 Matej Vocel/Robert Cash (Ohio State), 5-7, 6-4, 1-0 (7)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.