There will never be another ITA Cup quite like the 2020 edition, we hope! The dominant single’s storylines were Georgia Gwinnett’s Maria Genovese’s pursuit of the women’s singles title and Keiser’s Luke Simkiss’ pathway to the crown.
Men’s doubles saw the three-seed claim the rights of champion while in women’s doubles, the reigning champions kept their title in hand.
For the first time, only NAIA held competition for the ITA Cup. With all the chaos surrounding sports and the global pandemic, tennis continues to remain a safe and socially distant sport. The Intercollegiate Tennis Association has proven that with tournament play over the last few months.
Luke Simkiss found himself just one match away from pursuing the ITA Cup men’s singles title on Saturday. Yet for the undisputed best player of the tournament, he received surprisingly little attention during his three-day run in Rome, Georgia. But when the last ball was struck in the men’s singles final, it was the steady Seahawk who was holding his arms aloft in triumph, bringing them down just long enough to grab the trophy.
In two quick sets, Luke Simkiss and Valentino Caratini traded some of the most unique plays. However, Valentino was unable to overcome Luke. Luke entered the tournament unseeded, but his level of play was sound in all his matches. In fact, the Seahawk played well, exceptionally well at times. In two clean sets, Luke brought defeat upon Valentino. With a final score of 6-4, 6-4, Luke Simkiss was crowned the 2020 ITA Cup men’s singles champion.
On the other side of matchplay, Maria Genovese remained dominant to help Georgia Gwinnett bring home their 29th national title. The ITA Cup is nothing new for Maria. In fact, she has made an appearance at the event for the last three years.
Lailaa Bashir was looking to complete an upset over Maria; however, the Grizzly remained on top. The championship match came down to a tiebreak in the second set. The remarkable form of Maria Genovese held steady as she continued to club the ball across the court. Maria’s backhand released balls like lightning in the tiebreak. Maria, in champion fashion, claimed the women’s singles title in a 6-2, 7-6(0) match.
We know this much: the two singles champions were teammates at Tyler Junior College. Did TJC develop these players to be champions? We, and I’m sure Dash, would like to think so. To make things even sweeter, the singles champions are automatically qualified for the 2020 Oracle ITA National Fall Championships to be held at the USTA National Campus.
In doubles competition, the men’s duo of Martin Carrizo and Stefano Di Aloy of Indiana Wesleyan were riding high on cloud nine. After the two were unable to individually pull off wins in singles, but they came together to fight for the doubles title. Christopher Papa and Ivan Smith of San Diego Christian had other plans.
The third-seeded Hawks of San Diego Christian College were unable to gain momentum during serves and couldn’t outlast the Wildcats in the first set. The second set appeared to be heading down a similar path; however, the Hawks rallied to even things out. Chris and Ivan used the momentum in the second set to push them to victory in the third – taking the win with a final score of 5-7, 6-3, 6-3.
Making another debut on the court for the day, Maria Genovese and doubles partner Eva Siska of Georgia Gwinnett matched up with Lailaa Bashir and Angela Charles-Alfred of XULA. Maria and Lailaa battled earlier in the day for the women’s singles title. After a period of rest, the two pairs met across the net to battle it out.
In the first set, it looked as if the reining champions were going to lose grip of the crown. However, Lailaa and Angela evened things out with a tiebreaker. The Gold Nugget pair then used that momentum to lead them to victory after three sets. Lailaa and Angela secured their crown for a second year with a final score of 3-6, 7-6(5), 6-4.
We, along with the Rome Tennis Center staff, would again like to thank all student-athletes, coaches, and support staff for making this yet again, another incredible event. As they say…’That’s all folks!”