Dupre wins intrasquad clay-court final All-Mississippi St. contest is served in men's singles

September 30, 1996|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,SUN STAFF

Somebody had to lose, but it certainly wouldn't be Mississippi State tennis coach Andy Jackson. No matter the outcome, he could only win.

Jackson had both men's finalists, second seed Thomas Dupre and No. 7 Matt Ballay, in the T. Rowe Price National Intercollegiate Clay Court Championships yesterday at the Suburban Club.

Although it was the first time fellow Frenchmen Dupre and Ballay had met in a match of any importance, Dupre's 6-4, 6-2 triumph meant little to Jackson. He could only shrug at the suggestion that it justified his decision to play Dupre at No. 1 singles for Mississippi State without the benefit of a challenge match in practice.

"We regard this as a team sport, and to win the NCAA tournament you need four or five great players like these two," Jackson said. "We want competition for the top six, not for No. 1.

"You get one point for a win at No. 1 singles, one [point] at No. 2. We discourage guys from thinking otherwise."

Mississippi State has never won the NCAA championship, but it is a perennial top 5 team. In 1994, Jackson had the top college player in the country at No. 1 singles, Laurent Orsini, and an NCAA tournament quarterfinalist at No. 2, Jock Simmons.

"This gives Dupre and Ballay a lot of confidence, both making the final," Jackson said. "In fact, it gives the entire team confidence, because we have three or four guys capable of pushing them in practice."

Dupre and Ballay are the first teammates to compete in a clay-court final, and the first in a college grand slam final since Texas' Chad Clark defeated Ian Williams for the 1993 All-American title. Dupre is Mississippi State's third men's clay-court champion in the past five years.

After the confrontation with his teammate, Dupre said, "I felt a lot more pressure than if it had been some other guy. It was hard to play against him, and I didn't want to lose."

Ballay, smiling as if he had won, said, "I knew it would be hard. I tried not to think about it. Thomas was great, and played like the No. 2 seed in a national tournament that he was."

Fifth seed Lauren Nikolaus, a William and Mary junior from Silver Spring, Pa., defeated No. 8 Kati Kocsis of UCLA for the women's title, 6-4, 6-3. Nikolaus, consistent and accurate, ran Kocsis from one side of the court to the other, seldom allowing her to attack.

"If I didn't move her, she'd have been capable of big shots," Nikolaus said. "That was my game plan, move her and come in behind those balls. Kati is very strong, and would have been tough to beat."

All four finalists, each playing for a collegiate grand slam title for the first time, intend to enter the remaining three grand slams, starting with the All-American Championships next month.

Finals

Men's singles: Thomas Dupre (2), Mississippi State, def. Matt Ballay (7), Mississippi State, 6-4, 6-2.

Men's doubles: Tim Critchon and Tom Hamilton, Arkansas, def. John James and Claes Westlin,South Alabama, 6-3, 6-3.

Women's singles: Lauren Nikolaus (5), Williams & Mary, def. Kati Kocsis (8), UCLA, 6-4, 6-3.

Women's doubles: Laura Olave and Suzanna Rodriguez, Louisiana State, def. Kylie Hunt and Christine Sim, Kansas, 7-5, 3-6, 6-4.

Pub Date: 9/30/96

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