Former college stars Gibbs, Brady win on day 4 at Australian Open

January 19, 2017 08:43 AM

By Ashley Marshall,

In a strong endorsement of American varsity tennis, two former collegiate standouts were among the U.S. players to advance to the third round of the Australian Open on Thursday.

Nicole Gibbs and Jennifer Brady each punched her ticket to the round of 32 on Day 4 in Melbourne, proving that there’s multiple paths to a successful pro career on the court.

World No. 92 Gibbs, a two-time NCAA singles champion with the Stanford Cardinal, defeated fellow American and former Georgia Tech standout Irina Falconi, 6-4, 6-1, to move into the third round of the Australian Open for the first time.

The result ties her previous best Grand Slam result, at the 2014 US Open, and sets up a prime-time showdown with 22-time major champion and No. 2 seed Serena Williams, who on Thursday toppled former world No. 5 and French Open finalist Lucie Safarova, 6-3, 6-4.

Joining Gibbs (pictured above) in the third round is 21-year-old Brady, a UCLA student-athlete who was part of the 2015 USTA Collegiate National Team. Brady, who has now won five matches over the past seven days after earning her place in the main draw through the qualifying tournament, rallied to defeat Great Britain’s Heather Watson, 2-6, 7-6, 10-8.

World No. 116 Brady, who turned pro after her sophomore year in college, will now face 14th-seeded Russian Elena Vesnina, a surprise Wimbledon semifinalist last summer, on Saturday.

The success of Gibbs and Brady in Australia highlights the strength of American college tennis and the USTA’s continued commitment to supporting the next wave of talented U.S. players. The collegiate game will be showcased center stage more than ever in 2017 with the newly opened USTA National Campus at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla., playing host to a number of College MatchDay fixtures.

Gibbs went 111-15 in her singles career at Stanford, going 38-6 in the No. 1 spot, winning an NCAA doubles title to go along with her two singles crowns and becoming just the second player in school history to win a singles, doubles and team title.

Brady also earned several collegiate honors with the Bruins, including being named the Pac-12 Freshman of the Year, a two-time singles All-American and an NCAA singles quarterfinalist. A win against Vesnina would see her climb to a new career-high and edge closer to breaking into the Top 100.

The wins by Williams, Gibbs and Brady leave eight U.S. players in the singles tournament – six on the women’s side and two in the men’s draw – after a trio of American men went out to seeds on Day 4.

Young gun Frances Tiafoe lost a battle of rising Next Gen stars against No. 24 seed Alexander Zverev, Ernesto Escobedo went down in four sets to 21st-seeded David Ferrer and Donald Young fell to No. 32 seed Phillip Kohlschreiber.

Five U.S. players will be in action on Day 5, including  No. 13 seed Venus Williams against Ying-Ying Duan, CoCo Vandeweghe against Eugenie Bouchard and Alison Riske versus Sorana Cirstea.

Among the men, 23rd-seeded Jack Sock plays No. 12 seed Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and No. 31 seed Sam Querrey squares off against world No. 1 Andy Murray.