Malesovas Topples Wong in ITA Final
|Colton Malesovas, So., beat Josh Wong to become the USTA/ITA Regional Champion.|
Beaverton, Ore.- Last January, then-first year Colton Malesovas (Austin, TX) became a victim of circumstance. After a successful Fall season that had him in the mix for one of the Whitman men's tennis team's treasured lineup spots, he lost a string of nail bitingly close challenge matches to his teammates, and found himself buried on Whitman's incredible deep singles ladder. He worked hard the entire semester, but with the team in the midst of an undefeated regular season, there was no impetus for changing the lineup. His efforts went largely unnoticed.
At the end of his first year campaign, he swore to himself not to let that happen again, and returned to his native Austin Tennis Academy to train. Playing six hours of tennis every day for the summer, Colton filled the holes in his game that kept him out of the lineup and returned to Whitman a more complete player. On Sunday, all of his hard work paid off, as he defeated Willamette's Josh Wong 6-4, 7-5 in the finals of the USTA/ITA Fall Regional to earn a bid to the ITA Fall Nationals in Mobile, AL.
Malesovas entered the prestigious tournament seeded 13th, but nobody expected him to advance past the quarterfinals, as he was slated to face his teammate and two-time defending champion Andrew La Cava (Bellevue, WA). By beating La Cava on Sunday, Malesovas opened the door for someone new to claim the Northwest Conference throne, and then ran right through it.
In his semifinal match Sunday morning, Malesovas met Giancarlo Battaglia, the 7th-seed from Pacific University. Battaglia made his way to the semifinals by virtue of two tight victories over Whitman's Alex Noyes (Covington, WA) and Will Huskey (Auburn, CA), but he couldn't muster another. After trading breaks in the early going, Malesovas broke free from a 4-4 deadlock to take the set 6-4. Battaglia responded in the second, however; with the two players holding serve for the first seven games, Battaglia managed to break Malesovas a 3-4, eventually holding for a 3-6 second set victory. At that point, Malesovas found the game that brought him into the semifinals. His ground strokes started landing deeper, penetrating the Battaglia defense and earning Malesovas free point after free point. From there on out, Battaglia couldn't win a game, as Malesovas took the set and the match 6-4, 3-6, 6-0.
In the other semifinal, junior transfer Andy Riggs (Auburn, CA) came up against Willamette's Josh Wong. Wong had already exhibited a penchant for toppling Whitman players. In his first four matches, he came up against three Missionaries, beating first year Noah Lee (Forestville, CA) in the first round, senior Sam Sadeghi (Los Angeles, CA) in the third, and junior Steven Roston (Burlingame, CA) in the fourth. All three wins were grueling, physical affairs, and one had to wonder how long Wong could stay out there. Riggs started off the match well, spinning his forehand to Wong's weaker side, sneaking into the net, and ending points before Wong could find his groove. Just like Malesovas, Riggs broke Wong at 4-4 in the first and served out a 6-4 first set victory. The junior appeared on his way to a straight-set victory when he broke Wong in the first game of the second, but Wong's relentless consistency finally started denting Riggs' game. Wong immediately broke back to draw level in the second before a string of unusual points gave him another break of service and a 5-2 lead. Riggs broke Wong again to get back on serve at 4-5 in the second, but Wong responded in kind to take a 4-6 second set victory. At that point, Wong's stout defense finally won out. An exhausted Riggs, the only player to make the final day in both singles and doubles, started making unforced errors on his forehand side, and it wasn't long before Wong walked off the court with a 4-6, 6-4, 6-1 win.
|Andy Riggs, Jr., made an impressive Whitman debut|
At that point, it seemed like Wong might take out the entire Whitman lineup, but five Whitties was one too many for Wong. In the finals, Malesovas stepped inside the baseline and dictated play, refusing to let the Bearcat find a groove at the baseline. After falling in a 1-4 hole, Malesovas' dug into his reserves, and let loose on his groundstrokes. The exhausted Wong couldn't handle the extra pace and depth, as Malesovas induced one error after another. Colton reeled off five straight games to take the first set 6-4.
The second set was more of the same. Wong raced out to a 1-4 lead before Colton tightened his focus and started unleashing devastating forehand after devastating forehand. Malesovas battled back to 4-4 before Wong held to make it 4-5. The Whitman sophomore held to level the set at 5-5, and then played a brilliant return game to break. Serving for the match at 6-5, Malesovas showed none of the hesitation typical of young players and blasted his way to the tournament victory. The whole tournament was an impressive display of individual fortitude from Malesovas, but as Wong ran out of gas in the second set, it was clear than even an individual event can be a team effort. Malesovas got the win, but Lee, Sadeghi, Roston, and Riggs all got the assist.
With the victory, Malesovas with travel to Mobile, AL on October 14th to play the winner of the USTA/ITA Southwest Fall Regional in a play-in match. The winner of that match will enter the USTA/ITA Fall National tournament, an eight-man compass draw. The winner of that tournament is crowned ITA Fall National Champion.