Heartbreaker! Each year, for the past 8 years, Boise State Men’s Tennis Head Coach Greg Patton has taken a team of top-ranked college men and women to France to compete in the BNP Paribas Master’U. In those 8 years, Patton has coached the US team to 7 victories. Patton and his co-coach, Melissa Schaub of Ohio State, were hoping to bring home the Big Trophy again in 2017. Sadly, it was not to be for TeamUSA this year. Read below for Patton’s account of the final day!
As painful as it is to write that the Team USA lost in the Championships of the Master U in Lille France to Great Britain by a 4-2 score, it is also with great pride and gratitude that Coach Schaub and myself for being able to coach and lead such amazing and determined American Collegiate tennis stars. The American grit, resolve, talent, and especially depth as resourceful young champions was on display in every match, on every point, with every ball struck. Our American Team never recoiled against the toughest draw that I have experienced as Captain of the USA National Collegiate team, but only welcomed the adversity that was thrown in our direction.
It was a day of remarkable and many ways magical and shocking comebacks. Like an episode in Stranger Things whenever one of the players or doubles teams from either squad looked like the match had slipped out of our hands, they would ultimately find victory falling in their lap. I they ever make an episode on tennis in “Stranger Things” then our story for the Championship match must be the story line. Our main characters for the American team are Ena Shibahara (UCLA) who has to be considered Wonder Woman for the week. She went undefeated in 3 women’s doubles matches, a critical singles match against Great Britain, and the mixed doubles against France. Ashley Lahey (Pepperdine) lead the charge of the American women as she played #1 singles and was the Ena’s partner in the USA “Wonder Women” doubles tandem. She faced stiff competition in singles but her enthusiasm and competiveness was exhilarating to behold. Ashley was 0-3 in singles but her 3-0 womens doubles record was a life line for victory for the American team against France and Germany. Freshman Alle Sanford (North Carolina) was indoctrinated to team play this week, and although she had adversity in dropping both her #2 singles matches, she will undoubtedly have great success in college and international play.
The men have to be called the Comeback Boys. Brandon “lighting bolt” Holt (USC), Martin “Ever Ready” Redlicki (UCLA) and Alfredo “Salsa” Perez (Florida) were tenacious in pulling back the American team from deficits in the matches against France and Germany. The American Men’s players mojo was ultimately was derailed by energized and passionate British Men’s contingent that was nuclear powered and swinging for the fences and connected on every crucial point.
Brandon was 1-1 at #1 singles and 2-1 with Martin in Men’s Doubles
Martin was 1-0 at #1 singles and 1-1 at #2 singles (2-1 in Men’s Doubles with Brandon)
Alfredo was 1-0 at #2 singles in a thriller against Germany that brought the score back to 2-2 with the Germans.
In the finals, a recap for a classic Master’ U Championship
Ena Shibahara won her only singles match for the tournament with a match for the ages. She fought back in all three sets to take a 5-7, 7-5, 6-4 victory to give us our first lead in three team matches. Ena was the “Lion Heart” in this match for the ages. In the final set, the British player was up 3-0 and seemingly racing towards a victory. Ena’s resolve to fight for each and every point and somehow clawed herself back into the match. When she finally was able to serve for the match, the British lass stole some of Ena’s resolve and fought off 7 match points before Ena decisively put an exclamation point on a courageous winning shot.
USA up 1-0
Martin Redlicki was up next at #2 singles. Before he could get any rhythm or feel for the match, he was reeling from some “upper cut” blows from a serve and volleying destruction machine. His opponent, Jack Hawkins (who was a singles NCAA quarterfinalist for North Florida), is a “first strike” Navy Seal who at the first opportunity is attacking the net. Today, he was as close to Tennis Heaven as humanly possible as his first serve bombing serve percentage was near perfection and his volleys were laser precise. The points never went past two shots in this drive by shooting. Great Britain wins 6-4, 6-3
USA-1 Great Britain -1
Women’s #1 Singles
Ashley Lahey fell in a beautiful and hard hitting ballet against two radiant Ball Machines. Each point was accentuated by two aggressive baseliners blasting deep shots to corners until one shot feel woefully short and the other warrior ended with a winner. Of all the points played, the outcome of the match was ultimately decided by the difference of one or two points as Ashey fell 7-6, 7-6.
USA-1 Great Britain- 2
#1 Men’s Singles
Brandon Holt fell in a thriller that made both the British and American fans suffer some hair loss. The British player has great experience on the ATP circuit and plays a passionate go for the fences energy. Script was an Attacking British player and Brandon executing a composed counter punching defense until he could find an opening and attack his opponents backhand.
Although Brandon’s shoulder was aching, and he had to resort to spinning in his serve. Brandon was serving for the match at 6-5 and serving at 40-love.
The British player blasted two forehand bullets for winners and fought back to several break points. On one unfortunate play, it looked like Brandon’s opponent missed a passing shot (linesman called it out) in which Brandon would have a fifth match point opportunity, but the Head Umpire broke our hearts by over ruling the call and gave the point to the Brit. Eventually, the Brit got the break and went on capitalizing on the momentum swing to take the match. Britian wins 4-6, 6-4, 7-6
The USA backs are up against the wall
USA 1- Great Britain-3
Our women’s Wonder Women’s Team (Ena Shibahara and Ashely Lahey) went 3-0 in the tournament, and no wonder. They have the passion, resolve, weapons, smarts and heart to fight off the hordes of any attackers. Although they lost the first set, the sparkle in their eyes strength in their body language oozed confidence. They rumbled to win a remarkable 2nd set. The 3rd set tiebreaker was astonishing for both teams knew that it was a Championship for the Brits, and our American Gladiators would keep our chances for a 7th World Championship alive. The Brits were on the verge of victory when they went up 8-6 in the 10 point breaker. That is when our American Wonder Women saved the day. They reeled off 4 straight dynamic, aggressive and basically courageous shots and strategy to steal the win out of the hands of the Brits. 4-6, 6-3, 10-8 for USA
USA -2 Great Britain-3
We were feeling so confident going into this match, for yesterday our team of Holt/Redlicki were the tournament. None the less, the Brits were two experienced players whose game style were made for an aggressive doubles style. Gigantic serve and volley machines. One of our opponents has had great success on the pro circuit and has wins in doubles at the Wimbledon Championships. Their first serve percentage was off the charts great, and with the confidence of easily holding serve, they confidently went for their returns. We fought our butts off trying to take them out of their games, but we could never get a sniff. Our dreams of taking a 7th straight Masters’ U (World Collegiate Team Championship) was to be denied by the Great Britain taking a 6-4, 6-3 win.
Great Britain wins Masters’ U 4-2 over the USA
I can’t express enough how proud Coaches Melissa Schaub, Garrett Patton and myself were of our team. The experience of playing internationally is a win/win for everyone. We had by the far the toughest draw in playing France, Germany and ultimately the Brits. They represented the USA with class, passion and made countless new friends and fans in France. The greatest classroom is the heat of battle. Nothing can beat the intensity and pressure of playing for your team and especially your country. They responded with an aura that was radiant. There is no doubt that our six players will take the lessons from these intense four days in France and it will spur them to great results this collegiate season and the professional circuit.