2016 Master'U Blog: Fighting back for a big semifinal win

December 4, 2016 05:18 AM

Six of the top college players in the country – Francesca Di Lorenzo of Ohio State, Hayley Carter of North Carolina, Ena Shibahara of UCLA, Christopher Eubanks of Georgia Tech, Tom Fawcett of Stanford and Strong Kirchheimer of Northwestern – have been selected to represent the U.S. at the the 2016 Master’U BNP Paribas, the world's most prestigious international college team competition, which is taking place Dec. 1-4 in Marcq-en-Baroeul, France. The event features college teams from eight countries: Belgium, China, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Russia and the U.S.

Boise State men's coach Greg Patton is leading the U.S. team for the eighth time in the last nine years and is being joined at the helm by Ohio State women’s coach Melissa Schaub, as Team USA goes for its sixth straight title and seventh championship in the last eight years. Coach Patton is writing a blog for USTA.com during the team's stay in France. Stay tuned for daily updates.

By Greg Patton, special to USTA.com

Do you want awe and wonder in your life? Do you want an all-day, dawn-to-past-dusk thriller reality show played out in living color before your very eyes?

Do you want to climb out of what seems a horrific hole that has no escape route and survive? Do you want to live at a state of heightened being, witnessing the best and the brightest of our American collegiate stars fighting for their teammates, their country in the premiere international collegiate team tournament?

Then you need to be with the U.S. team at the Master'U BNP Paribas Championships in Lille, France.

We just arrived back at the hotel after an utter barn-burning, heart-thumping, blood-pressure-rising tennis extravaganza. Just let me say that our 5-2 semifinal victory over our nemesis, Germany, doesn't tell the story of the courage, enthusiasm and complete abandonment of trusting their talents in tennis.
In a nutshell, the experienced German team (which we barely defeated 4-3 last year) was biting at the chomp to defeat us and keep out firing.


The tournament has seven matches played in a row. It is a marathon or, to some teams, seems like a death walk.

We dropped the first two matches: Ena Shibahara at No. 2 women's singles (6-3, 6-1) and Strong Kirchheimer at No. 2 men's singles (7-5, 1-6, 6-3). Now all the Germans had to do was win two out of the next five matches left.

That was a tall order, since we had our No. 1 women's player (Francesca Di Lorenza) playing like a woman possessed. She won in straight sets (6-3, 6-3) to put a halt to the German steam roller and assure the U.S. team that at least our doubles teams will get to play for our lives and a shot at the final.

She was followed on the court by her teammate, the long, tall, "Cool Breeze" Chris Eubanks at No. 1 men's singles, who faced a German tennis machine.

There are some people who don't believe in miracles, but if you saw the courage and shot-making of Chris, you would think that miracles happen every day. He was down a set and spent the rest of the match climbing back up that slippery, steep mountain.

RELATED: Tom Fawcett: Can't wait to compete for the title

He lost the first set, 4-6, then turned the tide by fighting off the German's onslaught to win the second set, 6-3. The third set was a see-saw escapade of matching wits and spectacular tennis shot making.

There was a lot at stake for both teams. If the Germans won, they would lead 3-1 (and be only one match away from upsetting the Americans). If Chris could weather the storm of the Germans, we would be tied 2-2 going into the three doubles matches (women's doubles, men's doubles and mixed doubles).  The third set for Chris ended up in a tiebreak for all the marbles.

And the German took a fierce and fiery lead by going up 5-1 in the tiebreak. Only two points away from clinching what could be an insurmountable lead to get into the team final tomorrow.


But wait!! The Cool Breeze Eubanks from Georgia Tech was not to be denied. With the German serving at 5-1, it seemed that Chris was in mortal trouble, but he brought out his divine talent to win six straight earth-shattering points to take the victory, 4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), and hold the large French crowd spellbound. Did this really happen? It sure as heck did, and the proof was the American team rejoicing with hugs and shouts on center court.

Now the score was tied, and our American women's doubles team (Hayley Carter/Ena Shibahara) caught the contagious American confidence and easily dispatched the Germans, 6-1, 6-1. Then we were up against the determined German doubles team, which was trying to halt our path to the championship match.

RELATED: Hayley Carter: It took a total team effort vs. Germany

After the American team of Chris Eubanks and Tom Fawcett won the first set, 6-3, they hit a major bump in the road, as the Germans completely dominated, winning 6-3 in the second set. It was down to a 10-point tiebreaker, and the Americans were struck by bolts of lighting, courage and heavenly doubles play to take the doubles match, 10-2. The win was sealed!

Our mixed doubles team (Hayley Carter and Tom Fawcett) took the court and won, 8-1, in the dead rubber match. Whew!!!

I was trying to be brief, but my enthusiasm got the best of me. Big shout out to Melissa Schaub, my fellow national coach (from Ohio State), who was instrumental in our team fighting back for this big semifinal win.

We go at it again tomorrow morning, when we play Russia in pursuit of our seventh championship in the past eight years.  


Over and Out...

Weary and blissfully elated Coach Patton

Day 3 blog: Ready for a finger-biting thriller against Germany