Freshmen win singles titles

Updated: May 26, 2009, 3:40 PM ET
Associated Press

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Mississippi's Devin Britton and Duke's Mallory Cecil overcame their inexperience on the final day of the NCAA Division I tennis tournament.

The unseeded Britton became the youngest men's singles champion ever, while fellow freshman Cecil claimed the women's singles title at the Mitchell Tennis Center at Texas A&M on Monday.

Britton ended Ohio State senior Steven Moneke's 22-match win streak with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory. Cecil continued her run against Miami players, outlasting Laura Vallverdu 7-5, 6-4 in a 2-hour, 20-minute match.

"It's and awesome feeling, great for Mississippi tennis," said Britton, who turned 18 on March 17. "I definitely surprised myself and didn't see this coming. I just took it one match at a time and didn't have any mental lapses."

Moneke broke Britton once and won the first set in a swift 26 minutes.

Moneke continued to put the pressure on Britton early in the second, gaining break points at 2-2, but once Britton escaped that game, he went on to win five straight games, including the first of the decisive set.

"I definitely picked up my serve in the second and third sets and was able to attack his second serve," Britton said. "I started mixing up the slice a little bit and just got better and better as the match went on."

Britton broke to go up 4-2 in the final set and held serve at 30 to close out the victory.

The final point was a backhand error by Moneke, who despite being the first Buckeye to make the NCAA singles final was disappointed he wasn't able to build on the momentum from his first set.

It was Moneke's second final in a week. The Buckeyes lost to Southern California in the team tournament.

Britton, who entered Mississippi in January, went 28-9 for the Rebels.

Cecil made it through the draw of 64 without dropping a set. She defeated three players from Miami, the team Duke toppled in the quarterfinals on the way to its team title.

Cecil defeated the Hurricanes' Bianca Eichkorn in the round of 16 and their No. 1 player, Julia Cohen 6-1, 6-0 in the semifinals.

The finals took much longer against the Canes' No. 2, with each set taking more than an hour on the hottest day of the 10-day tournament.

"I knew she was fully capable and wasn't going to roll over," Cecil said. "I definitely tightened up, the fact that it was so close was hitting me. But in that last game I was just trying to get the serve in and hit my shots, not thinking about the score because we could have had a lot more tennis to go."

Vallverdu fought off three match points at 5-3, but was unable to get into the final game, losing at 15 and hitting her last shot long to end the match.

In doubles play, Virginia's Dominic Inglot and Steven Shabaz defeated Tennessee's Davey Sandgren and John-Patirck Smith, 4-6, 7-6 (4), 6-4. It was the Cavaliers' third individual title in as many years, with Somdev Devvarman having won the singles title the past two seasons.

California's Mari Andersson and Jana Juricova defeated Pac-10 foes Hilary Barte and Lindsay Burdette of Stanford, 6-3, 6-4.


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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