There was a time Friday night when it appeared the top-ranked Virginia men's tennis team would lose the doubles point for the first time this season. After all, the team's opponent, No. 29 Virginia Tech, had captured the point during their match last season in Blacksburg, before Virginia thrashed the Hokies in singles play to take the victory, 6-1.
Senior Michael Shabaz and junior Drew Courtney owned their match at No. 1 doubles Friday - winning 8-3 - but freshman Alex Domijan and sophomore Jarmere Jenkins were pummeled at No. 2 doubles, 8-2.
That left senior Sanam Singh and junior Steven Eelkman Rooda, who trailed a break, 5-7, at the No. 3 doubles position. Rooda held at 5-7, and, after the duo leapt out to a 40-0 lead, Singh broke the serve of Virginia Tech junior Patrick Daciek with a topspin lob to knot the score of the match at 7-7. Singh held with two consecutive aces and broke Virginia Tech again at 8-7 to win the match and secure an unusually tense doubles point for the Cavaliers (10-0, 3-0 ACC).
"We didn't start too well," Singh said after the match. "Steven has a huge serve, and he got broken the first game, and then it was a slow start, but we knew if we could just stay a break back and not lose focus too much and just stay with them, we knew we were going to be in every return game."
The point was Virginia's first of a 6-1 victory against the Hokies.
Virginia's lone loss against Virginia Tech (3-4, 0-1 ACC) came at the No. 1 singles spot, where Shabaz fell, 3-6, 6-2, 6-3, against the speedy and consistent play of Hokie junior Luka Somen. It was Shabaz's first loss of the regular season and came well after the rest of Virginia's singles players had pummeled their Virginia Tech foes. It was also the first defeat for a top-six singles player at Virginia so far this season.
Singh, who played No. 2 singles in 2009 and 2010 but has now moved back to No. 3 singles with the arrival of Domijan, has cruised during his singles matches so far this season, outdueling foes with quick feet and athleticism. This weekend's match against Virginia Tech was no different as Singh won, 6-1, 6-3.
"I feel pretty fit right now," Singh said after the match against Virginia Tech. "I feel like I'm using my speed a lot better this year. I just need to make sure I get a good balance between offense and defense. And today there was a lot of good balance between that."
After suffering a resounding 8-2 defeat at No. 2 doubles against Virginia Tech, Jenkins said that he and Domijan, the No. 10-ranked doubles team in the country, just couldn't hit their stride against the Virginia Tech pairing of Somen and junior Corrado Degl'Incerti Tocci. After the match, Virginia coach Brian Boland said that Jenkins and Domijan lacked energy throughout.
"Dom and I just had a bad day," Jenkins said. "Those guys played well, we didn't serve well, we didn't make first volleys. I just think we're going to get better with time, especially leading up into the National Indoors. I definitely feel like this helped us more than hurt us."
Jenkins, who had surgery during Winter Break and could not practice, has returned to form lately in singles after dropping the first set during January matches against No. 16 Illinois and then-No. 36 Notre Dame. He defeated Virginia Tech's Degl'Incerti Tocci, 6-4, 6-3. The Cavaliers rested many of their starters, including Jenkins, during a match Sunday morning at unranked Boston College (2-3, 0-1 ACC), which the Cavaliers won, 7-0.
"I feel a lot better," Jenkins said. "I knew I was going to have a slow start just because I had surgery over break. I definitely feel like I've been training really hard, and I feel set heading into National Indoors."
The ITA National Team Indoors, which the Cavaliers have won each of the past three seasons, begin Feb. 18 in Seattle, Wash.