Sophomore Danil Zelenkov and junior Francisco Dias hit a wall on day three of the ITA All-American Championships this week, failing to move on in singles or doubles play.
The Championships are a nine-day tournament, beginning with pre-qualifying matches last Saturday. Because of their rankings, Zelenkov and Dias were automatically placed into the qualifying draw, which began earlier this week.
On Monday, day one of the qualifying draw for the Tulsa, Okla. tournament, Zelenkov stormed back after losing his first set, winning the second and third sets 6-2, 6-2, to take down Arkansas’ Manfed Jeske. The comeback win was even more satisfying for Zelenkov, as former GW assistant head coach Nester Briceno now serves as the assistant coach for the Razorbacks, no doubt giving Jeske a strategic edge going into the match.
“I think it was very important [winning in the first round] considering I wasn’t playing my best tennis and it was against an SEC School,” Zelenkov said. “And any comeback match when you kind of have to dig deep is really tough, and I think it’s a good feeling when you come on top of it in the end.”
Dias did not fair as well in opening round play, losing to No. 67 Harrison Adams of Texas A&aM, 6-1, 7-5, and sending him to the consolation bracket.
“I was a little disappointed by losing that first match, but I figured that 50% of the players lose the first round,” Dias said. Most of them are great players because normally only ranked players or very good schools are there.”
Tuesday served as the beginning of doubles competition for GW, a format in which Zelenkov and Dias were competing together for the first time. The inexperience didn’t phase the duo, though, as they cruised to an 8-2 victory over the duo from Oklahoma State.
Both players continued that momentum into their singles matches, with Zelenkov winning his match over No. 99 Alvaro Nazal (Gonzaga) 6-4, 6-4, and Dias rebounding to win his final consolation match 3-6, 7-6, 6-3. Like Zelenkov’s opening round match, Dias’ opponent – Chip Cox – had a bit of a strategic advantage, Dias said, as one of his friends is a teammate of Cox.
It’s the type of coincidences that happen in the small world of college tennis, especially in an exclusive tournament like this one where only top ranked players compete.
Continuing on to day three of competition, Zelenkov and Dias failed to move on in both singles and doubles play. The duo lost a heartbreaker, 8-7, against UTSA’s Diogo Casa and Yannick Junger, and then Zelenkov, looking for his third straight victory over a ranked opponent, fell 6-1, 6-4 to No. 73 Arturs Kazijevs of SMU.
“Overall we had a successful trip,” head coach Greg Munoz said in a press release. “Danil and Francisco had never played doubles together but they learned a lot about how to compete and came so close to reaching the main draw. Danil keeps improving and he is ready to make that jump into being a top nationally ranked singles player. Francisco also continues to improve and I expect him to do big things this season.”
The Colonials return to the court this weekend for the Virginia Fall Classic, where they will be sending seniors Nikita Fomin and Victor Svensson and freshman Daniel O’Connor.
-Ellee Watson contributed to this report.