Ron Mercer finally said no to the string of upsets at the United States Tennis Association National Amateur Indoor Championships at Greenspring Racquet Club.
Mercer, the nation's No. 5 amateur and the top seed here, trailed unseeded Vaidas Cikotas in yesterday's third set, 5-4, then rallied behind a hooking serve and steady return to win the men's singles title, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5.
Then, eighth-seeded Jill Craybas, a high school junior, won the last nine games to beat unseeded Karen Bergan of Arizona State, 7-5, 6-0, for the women's national title.
Centennial High School graduate Greg Finck won his second straight national crown in men's doubles. He teamed with Kurt Hammerschmidt, who was on the other side of the net in last year's final, to defeat Cikotas and Baltimorean Michael Scherer in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
College sophomores Susan Klingenberg (Hampstead) of Kentucky and Allegra Milholland of UCLA stormed back for a 4-6, 6-1, 6-3 decision over Carter Lackey and Shawn McCarthy in their final.
Mercer said unfamiliarity had much to do with the difficulty of his victory.
"I usually match up well vs. seeded players, but I didn't know about him [Cikotas] or that he was so good," said Mercer, 22, a Pittsburgh native in his senior year at West Virginia. "It took me awhile to adjust to his size [6 feet 5] and his power."
"He hits the ball about Mach-80, but I served and returned especially well -- although I didn't volley as well as I expected," Mercer said.
After Cikotas surmounted early service woes to take the first set, Mercer broke his service, forced play to the net and built leads of 3-0 and 4-1 in the second. His volley temporarily deserted him, but he recovered in time to force the deciding set.
Cikotas, an Auburn junior from Alexandria, Va., could not capitalize on three break points in the third set. "He [Mercer] put together some really good returns and held service. It was a serving thing," he said.
Craybas, 16, of the Lincoln School in Providence, R.I., maintained her composure while trailing Bergan, 4-5, in the first set. She then rallied to dominate by keeping the ball away from Bergan's powerful forehand.
"I seem to have a habit of getting down at the beginning of matches. Maybe it's nervousness," said the tournament's second-youngest player. "But I think I start to concentrate more and play better when I'm down."
"My ground strokes got better and better as the match went on," said Craybas, of Cinnaminson, N.J., who consistently played to Bergan's backhand.
"I thought her forehand was better, so I just tried to keep it away. But I still had to mix it around," Craybas said.
Langley (Va.) High School junior Lackey, 15, and Georgia sophomore McCarthy, the third-seeded pair, took their first set with aggressive play. But Klingenberg and Milholland then fell back on fundamental tennis.
"We just tried to play good, solid doubles. No angles or anything," said Klingenberg, who beat McCarthy in last year's singles and doubles finals. "We just wanted to make them play the ball."
That was what swung the match, as Klingenberg and Milholland, who were unseeded, closed on the net and dominated the final two sets.
No. 2 seeds Finck (William and Mary) and Hammerschmidt (Saginaw, Mich.) teamed for the first time in this tournament, but played like a veteran pair.
"We were a good combination, because I put the ball in play and he took care of the rest," Finck said. "This was our toughest match of the four, but we served really well [no breaks] all the way through."
In men's and women's singles, only five total players in the top eight seeds advanced as far as the quarterfinals.
"With this many good players coming from all over the country, it's just very difficult to seed," said tournament director Gary Kittay.