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Duo stays positive despite Open loss

Shabaz, Courtney fall to 10 seed in doubles draw, remain poised for future pro tournaments, upcoming season

If it happened on the college stage, he likely would seek therapy.

Consecutive losses on the pro circuit, including one in the U.S. Open, however, are not keeping Michael Shabaz up at night.

"Overall it was a great experience," the two-time NCAA doubles champion said. "It's good to be in the locker room with the big boys."

Shabaz and junior Drew Courtney competed as a wild card against the 10-seeded team of Dick Norman and Wesley Moodie in the first round of the grand slam last week.

Although the Virginia duo had some chances early, it was the Cavaliers' veteran opponent that managed to capitalize on their mistakes.\nNorman and Moodie broke Shabaz's serve in the first set and Courtney's in the second, as both Cavaliers double-faulted. Those fundamental errors made life difficult against Norman, the oldest player on tour.

"You give a team of that caliber an opening, and they're gonna take it," Virginia coach Brian Boland said. "They're one of the best in the world."

The Virginia tandem, meanwhile, failed to break its opponent. The 6-foot-8 Norman and 6-foot-5 Moodie gave Shabaz and Courtney trouble with their big, powerful serves. Still, the 5-foot-10 Shabaz had experience playing against larger teams; he played against 6-foot-9 John Isner in a first-round loss in last year's Open.

"What made it tougher was they had a righty-lefty combo; you never got into rhythm," Shabaz said.

The result was a 6-3, 6-4 loss. Although a victory certainly would have been considered an upset - Norman and Moodie have advanced to the quarterfinals - Shabaz and Courtney headed into the match with momentum after playing in the ATP Legg Mason Classic in early August.

During the first round of that event, the Virginia team nearly mounted a monumental comeback against Bob and Mike Bryan. Trailing 2-6 in the first-set tiebreaker, the Cavaliers rallied to take four consecutive points against the No. 2-ranked doubles team in the world. Though the Bryan brothers would eventually take the set and the match, 7-6(6), 6-4, the Cavaliers emerged with the sort of swagger and confidence that fueled their run to the NCAA doubles championship in May.

That momentum did not transfer to the U.S. Open, however.

"We took care of our serves better against the Bryans; we didn't really have one sloppy game," Shabaz said. "At the U.S. Open, we definitely had one sloppy game on each of our serves."

Shabaz said he likely will mix in some pro tournaments as he prepares for the upcoming college season.

It seems it's only a matter of time before Virginia's star senior brings an end to that two-match losing streak.

"I don't think there was any question they thought they could compete," Boland said.