On Friday afternoon, the Wake Forest Demon Deacons, ranked second in the ACC, and seventh nationally, looked like it would be headed home early at the hands of seventh seeded Notre Dame before Romain Bogaerts spurred a comeback in his third set to eventually defeat Alex Lawson in a 3rd set tiebreak and win the quarterfinal match 4-3.
Little did he, nor the Deacs know it at the time, but that win set a trend of comeback victories that would result in the first ever Men's Tennis ACC Championship for Wake Forest.
This article will not do justice to the resolve and tenacity that the Deacs displayed over three days. The Deacs defeated Notre Dame 4-3 on Friday, then No. 6 Virginia Tech 4-2 on Saturday, and finally No.1 (both ACC and nationally) Virginia 4-3, ending the Cavaliers 9 year ACC Championship run.
After Friday's thrilling comeback win by Bogaerts and the Deacs, Saturday's win over the Hokies was a little less dramatic, with freshman Dennis Uspensky clinching the match by coming back from a set deficit to defeat Jai Corbett.
This propelled the Deacs to its second straight ACC Championship match, and seventh overall final in school history.
On Sunday, Wake Forest faced off against ACC giant Virginia, in what became one of the best matches that I will probably ever see in college tennis. After winning the doubles point for the third consecutive day, Wake Forest put immediate pressure on the Cavaliers, needing just three out of six singles matches to clinch its first ACC Championship.
That quickly became a 2-0 lead for Wake after No. 14 (nationally) Skander Mansouri absolutely crushed defending national champion No. 8 Ryan Shane, 6-0, 6-3.
From there, it began it look pretty tough for the Deacs. Virginia quickly tied at the match at 2-2 a few minutes later after straight set wins by No. 6 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski and No. 116 J.C. Aragone at the 3 and 4 singles.
The fifth point of the match was decided at the number two singles, where Virginia's No. 40 Collin Altamirano erased a set deficit to defeat Wake Forest's No. 19 Petros Chrysochos 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. At the point it was an extremely dire situation, as Christian Seraphim and Dennis Uspensky were both down in their matches at the 5 and 6 singles, and the Deacs needed both to win the match.
Seraphim found himself down 3-0 in the third set before he blitzed Henrik Wiersholm of Virginia to win six out of the final seven games to take a 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 victory on court 5. This tied the match at three and put all the pressure for the Deacs on freshman Dennis Uspensky at the six.
Uspensky, the eventual MVP of the Tournament, once again found himself down early after dropping the first set in a tiebreaker 6-7 (4-7) to Virginia's Luca Corinteli. He then fell behind 4-1 in the second set before pushing that to tiebreaker and eventually winning 7-3 to tie the match at a set apiece.
The third set was an absolute battle, with everybody solely focused on this court for the majority of the proceedings. Uspensky was broken at 2-2, and found himself down 4-2 before battling back to win three games in a row to take a 5-4 lead. Corinteli and Uspensky both held for the final three games to force yet another tiebreaker, this time for the match.
Uspensky served for the first point and lost it, but then won two in a row to get back on serve. From there it was the poor serves of Corinteli, who double-faulted four times in the tiebreaker, that would decide the match, including the final one coming on game, set, match, and championship point. Uspensky won 6-7, 6-7, 7-6 in an extremely nerve-wracking and tight-knit affair.
The final double fault set off a raucous celebration and dog pile for the Wake Forest players and fans, who finally overcame their Virginia demons, and clinched the ACC Championship.
The Deacs now await their NCAA Tournament fate, where they will be one of a few teams with legitimate national title chances. With wins over UVA and UNC on the year, Wake has shown they can (and will) beat anybody, anywhere. That is an extremely dangerous team at this point in the year.
The complete NCAA Tournament field will be revealed Tuesday, May 3rd at 5:30 on NCAA.com.
As always, but especially today, we at Blogger So Dear are Proud to be a Deac, and salute Tony Bresky and the entire tennis program for getting the job done on the big stage and winning an ACC Championship!