It’s not quite Breakfast at Wimbledon, but it’s the next best thing this morning as the 2009 Big Ten women’s tennis championships get underway today at Nielsen Tennis Stadium in Madison, Wis. The Gophers are the eighth seed and will take on ninth-seeded Penn State on Thursday morning in the opening round.
Join us on gophersports.com as we bring you inside coverage of this weekend’s matches. Gopher tennis media relations contact Jim Strick will be providing updates from Nielsen during the matches. If you have comments or questions throughout the match, you can e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll do our best to get them answered. You'll need to hit refresh to keep getting the latest updates.
11:35 a.m. - It's a good day to be a Gopher as they finish off Penn State with a 4-0 victory and improve to 12-11 for the season. It should be an enjoyable rest of the day and the conference banquet is set for 7 p.m. tonight at the Kohl Center. Hopefully Gopher fans can join us again on Friday as Minnesota takes on Northwestern at 10 a.m. central and looks to knock off the 10-time defending league champions. The final box score and a recap of today's match will be posted on gophersports.com shortly.
11:33 a.m. - Sorry, I hadn't been checking my e-mail and missed the question from Matt in Madison who wondered if we'll be playing indoors all day today. As Matt can probably tell by looking out his window, it's getting nice in Madison and it looks like the Badgers will also play outside later today. I thought maybe there was a rule that if one match is indoors they all had to be, but apparently that's not the case.
11:32 a.m. - Seaton does it, taking her match 7-6, 6-2 and putting the Gophers into the quarterfinals to face top-ranked Northwestern for the second straight year with a 4-0 victory.
11:31 a.m. - The sun is shining and it's looking nice outside. It appears Michigan State and Purdue are going to play outdoors. Penn State just won the second set at No. 2 by a 6-3 score, so Ferrazzi and Chiarelli are both in third sets. Hopefully Seaton can finish this out and it won't matter.
11:30 a.m. - Northwestern is up next for the winner of this match. The Wildcats are 21-1 and ranked No. 1 in the country, so it will be a tall task for Minnesota to pull the upset. Northwestern beat the Gophers 7-0 two weeks ago. Minnesota had several of its top players out with injuries that day and hopefully having them back for Friday's match will make a difference.
11:27 a.m. - Penn State held serve at No. 6, so Seaton will serve to give the Gophers the team victory with a 5-2 lead. If she wins, we'll head for the hotel. It's not like the regular season where you need to play out the remainder of the matches.
11:26 a.m. - Seaton might be next to clinch for the Gophers. She leads 5-1 in the second set with Penn State serving.
11:25 a.m. - Time for a cheer from Koprivica, who just won her second set to take the match 6-1, 6-1 and put the Gophers ahead 3-0. One more win and it's on to the quarterfinals tomorrow.
11:22 a.m. - Penn State won the second set at No. 1 by a 6-3 score. They're headed to the third. Ferrazzi is down a break at No. 3 and trails 4-2 in the second set. Seaton is now up 4-1.
11:19 a.m. - Minnesota won the first set in every singles match. Chiarelli also just broke serve again. Here's where we're at:
No. 1- Minnesota 6-2, 3-5
No. 2- Minnesota 6-4, 2-3
No. 3- Minnesota 6-1, 4-1
No. 4- Minnesota 7-6
No. 5- Minnesota won 6-2, 6-2
No. 6- Minnesota 7-6, 4-0
11:16 a.m. - Wilkins pulled out the tiebreaker at No. 4 by a 9-7 score. What a point at 7-all where it looked like she was in trouble, but she was able to fight off an overhead smash with a picture-perfect forehand her opponent couldn't return. That first set tiebreaker win gave Seaton some momentum at No. 6. She's up 3-0 in the second set. Koprivica is on cruise control and might be Minnesota's next victor with a 6-1, 4-1 lead at No. 2.
11:15 a.m. - It's 7-all in Wilkins' tiebreaker. Penn State is up 5-2 in the second set at No. 1 and looking to serve out the set. Chiarelli won the first set 6-2.
11:12 a.m. - Good stuff in the No. 4 tiebreaker. They're hitting some quality shots and changing sides at 6-all.
11:08 a.m. - Wilkins changes sides in the tiebreaker tied at 3-3. Chiarelli got one of her breaks back and now trails 4-2, while Ferrazzi has broken back to even her second set at 2-2.
11:04 a.m. - Wiecha just lets out a loud Minnesota cheer to let everyone know the Gophers are up 2-0 after clinching a 6-2, 6-2 win at No. 5. A beautiful drop shot and lob winner gets Ferrazzi a service game win and cuts the lead to 2-1. Looks like Seaton won her tiebreaker 7-4. Wilkins is now in a tiebreaker at No. 4. Koprivica is up 3-0 in the second set at No. 2.
11:01 a.m. - Seaton is up 4-1 in her tiebreaker and Wilkins now leads 6-5.. Chiarelli just fell behind 4-1 in the second set and Ferrazzi now trails 2-0. We might need Liz to move over to the other side and start cheering Karina and Ale on.
10:58 a.m. - Good news at No. 6. Seaton just broke serve and they're in a first set tiebreaker.
10:57 a.m. - Wilkins just played a strong game to even her match at 5-5. Liz Tusler's passionate cheering on that court probably had a lot to do with Wilkins' performance.
10:54 a.m. - Chiarelli was just broken at No. 1 and trails 2-1 in the second set. Ferrazzi also was broken to open the second set. The nice part about the quiet surroundings here is that you can actually hear all the officials calling out the scores. Of course, it's still nothing like the Baseline Tennis Center with our new state-of-the-art scoreboards on every court.
10:52 a.m. - Seaton just had her serve broken at No. 6 and now trails 6-5. Chiarelli's match is 1-1 in the second set.
10:50 a.m. - Koprivica won her first set 6-1 and Ferrazzi just broke serve to take hers 6-4. Four first sets are complete and Minnesota has won them all. The Gophers need to finish three of those matches to clinch the victory and a match with top-ranked Northwestern on Friday. Wilkins just held serve to cut the deficit to 5-4 at No. 4.
10:49 a.m. - Here's a quick look at what the scores look like. Minnesota won the doubles point.
No. 1- Minnesota up 6-2
No. 2- Minnesota up 5-1
No. 3- Minnesota up 5-4 (on serve)
No. 4- Penn State up 5-3
No. 5- tied 5-5
No. 6- Minnesota up 6-2, 3-0
10:47 a.m. - Penn State held serve at No. 6. Seaton and her opponent are tied 5-5. Wilkins now trails 5-3 at No. 4 and is serving.
10:45 a.m. - Purdue has arrived for its noon match with Michigan State. They are lounging on the chairs and watching the match through the windows on the lower level. The Boilermakers are seeded sixth, but Minnesota handed them a loss in the regular season finale on Sunday. Ferrazzi held serve to go up 5-4 and Koprivica is rolling with a 5-1 lead. I believe Wiecha was just down love-40 on her serve, but won five straight points to take the game and a 6-2, 3-0 lead. Seaton is involved in a long game while still holding a 5-4 lead.
10:40 a.m. - Chiarelli just won her first set 6-2, so the Gophers have now taken two first set victories. I was wrong about Ferrazzi earlier, she wasn't up a break. It's 4-4 and she's serving. Seaton's match is on serve with her holding a 5-4 lead. Koprivica just went up 4-1 and Wilkins is behind 4-3, but on serve.
10:39 a.m. - Wilkins just broke serve and is even at 3-3. She's also been hampered by injuries lately, which is why she sat out doubles today. Looks like she is getting on track. Seaton is now up 5-4 in the first set and Wiecha won the first game in her second set.
10:37 a.m. - Chiarelli is up 5-2 at No. 1. Not surprising since it looks like she's playing well, which is good to see. She's struggled a bit lately with six straight losses and three of those coming in three sets.
10:36 a.m. - Wilkins just held serve to cut her deficit to 3-2 at No. 4. Seaton's opponent, Michaela Stracar, won two straight games, but Seaton bounced back to take a 5-3 lead at No. 6. Ferrazzi looks like she's getting into a groove with her backhand and now is up a break at 4-3 at No. 3. Koprivica is up 3-1 at No. 2. Can't see the score on Chiarelli's match.
10:30 a.m. - For those of you just joining, Minnesota won the doubles point today and currently leads in five of the six singles matches. Magdalena Wiecha won her first set over Maria Prishlyak 6-2 at No. 5 singles. Welcome to Tyler Thomson's mom, Jane, who is following along in North Dakota. Tyler said she'd be loving every minute of this!
10:27 a.m. - Actually Forsyth beat Leyla Morzan, who is playing No. 4 singles today for Penn State. Prishlyak didn't play in the dual earlier this year. Morzan is leading Niltooli Wilkins 2-1 and is up a break. Koprivica is now up 3-1 and Seaton is serving with a 4-2 lead. Wiecha just went up 5-2.
10:25 a.m. - Alex Seaton lost her first game at No. 6, but she's won four straight and now leads 4-1. Koprivica is up 2-1 at No. 2 and Ferrazzi is up 3-1 at No. 3. Wiecha's opponent, Maria Prishlyak, won two straight games to cut her lead to 3-2, but Wiecha is still up a break. Peta Forsyth dominated Prishlyak 6-0, 6-2 in the dual match earlier this year.
10:22 a.m. - Just some background on the trip so far, Minnesota arrived here on Wednesday around 4 p.m. and had practice outside last night in some perfect weather from 5-7 p.m. The Gophers were also able to take in a couple innings of the softball game here last night as Minnesota played at Wisconsin. The stadium is right next to the tennis courts so it gave the players a rare chance to cheer on their fellow Gopher athletes on the road. Unfortunately, they weren't able to help Minnesota take a victory as the softballers lost 2-1 on a dramatic play in the bottom of the seventh inning. Apparently coach Thomson had to explain what was going on to most of the international players, who had never seen softball before. Our assistant coaches, Daria and Imke, also needed a few tips on the rules of the game. I guess that isn't a good sign for softball's worldwide awareness and getting reinstated as an Olympic sport.
After the game, Tyler treated the players to dinner at Lombardino's restaurant across the street from the hotel. He insisted that wasn't a normal meal for the tennis team, which is too bad since the food was incredible. It was definitely a nice way to reward the players on a long and well-played season.
10:14 a.m. - Some of the other teams are starting to arrive at the tennis center this morning. Michigan State just got here for its noon match against Purdue. Michigan has also just arrived for practice as the Wolverines earned a bye as the No. 2 seed and don't play until tomorrow. Chiarelli just took a 2-0 lead at No. 1 singles and Ferrazzi broke back to even her match 1-1. Wiecha just broke again for a 3-0 lead at No. 5. Tijana Koprivica broke serve in her opening game at No. 2 for a 1-0 lead.
10:13 a.m. - Alessandra Ferrazzi had her serve broken in the first game against Dorothy Dohanics at No. 3 singles. Ferrazzi's match against Purdue on Sunday was her first since March 22 as she's been battling injuries for the past month. Magdalena Wiecha beat Dohanics 6-2, 6-3 in the dual with Penn State earlier this year. Speaking of Wiecha, she broke serve to open her match at No. 5 this morning.
10:05 a.m. - Singles are underway. It's incredibly quiet in here today with such a small crowd. Hopefully there's more people following this blog than are in attendance here today. Fortunately, Liz Tusler, Peta Forsyth and Jackie Sperling are making plenty of noise cheering on their teammates to give us some atmosphere.
9:54 a.m. - Warmups for singles have begun. It will be a balancing act to keep track of all six matches, but this is a great facility to watch tennis. There's 12 indoor courts and with balconies running in between several of the courts, it provides some nice vantage points. It was built in the 1970's and the decor hasn't changed much, but the courts look like they're in great shape. The building is named after A.C. Nielsen of the TV ratings services. He's a Wisconsin alum.
Speaking of TV, the championship match will be televised tape-delayed on the Big Ten Network. It's going be shown on Sun., May 3 at 3 p.m. central time. Not sure if A.C. Nielsen can do anything to influence the ratings, but hopefully we'll have plenty of viewers.
9:48 a.m. - Seaton slams home a shot at the net and Minnesota takes the No. 3 doubles match 8-3 to clinch the doubles point. The Gophers all chant "game, set and match Minnesota!" Ferrazzi held serve at No. 1 for a 6-3 lead, but the match is over since it is now meaningless. Singles play will start shortly.
9:47 a.m. - It's match point at No.3 doubles with Minnesota leading 7-3 and Wiecha serving.
9:45 a.m. - An overhead kill by Seaton just broke Penn State's serve and put the No. 3's up 7-3. Wiecha will attempt to serve it out for the doubles point. Neither team can hold serve at No. 1 as Chiarelli and Ferrazzi just broke again to take a 5-4 lead. Ferrazzi is now serving.
9:42 a.m. - Penn State couldn't handle a Sperling backhand as she and Koprivica completed an 8-0 rout at No. 2. They didn't drop many points in winning that match. The No. 1 match is still tied 4-4, but if the No. 3's can pull it out, that match will be suspended and won't even matter.
9:40 a.m. - Seaton just served a love game and the No. 3's are up 6-3. Niltooli Wilkins senses a Gopher doubles point coming as she just grabbed her racquets to start warming up for her singles match. The No. 2's have two match points to finish off the shutout.
9:38 a.m. - The No. 2 doubles team is about to finish it off with a 7-0 lead and Penn State serving. The No. 3's just broke serve and lead 5-3, while the No. 1's are tied 4-4. Minnesota was up a break at No. 1, but the Nittany Lions broke Chiarelli's serve to even the match.
9:33 a.m. - It looks like the Gophers have finally recovered from that early wake-up call. Ferrazzi and Chiarelli have won three straight at No. 1 doubles to tie their match 3-3 and Seaton and Wiecha now lead 4-3 at No. 3. Sperling and Koprivica now lead 6-0 at No. 2. Sperling's forehand looks outstanding. Sperling might be sparked by some home-state pride. She's from the Milwaukee area and her sister goes to school here at Wisconsin. Her parents are also here today.
9:26 a.m. - Good news to report - the No. 3 doubles team got the break back and are tied 3-3. The No. 1 doubles team also got back on serve and now trails 3-2. Sperling and Koprivica are cruising at No. 2 with a 4-0 lead.
9:21 a.m. - Jeff from Plymouth, Minn. wrote in with a question wondering if our team prefers to play inside or outside and if they play better in a certain environment. That's a great question. It seems to me they prefer to play outside when they can, but there was definitely an overwhelming sentiment to play indoors when the team saw the weather this morning. In fact, there's a pretty steady rain falling right now. Some of the players this morning mentioned how there's a couple players on the team who like to always play indoors. Hopefully there are a lot of big-time recruits out there who feel the same way. With Minnesota having one of the nation's best indoor facilities, that would make the Gophers tough to beat!
Things aren't going well at No. 1 doubles. Chiarelli and Ferrazzi are down 3-0. It's surprising since they are 8-0 this season and 21-3 during their careers, having won 10 straight. All of their losses have come in fall tournaments and they've never lost in a dual match. The No. 2's are up 3-0 and the No. 3's are still down a break at 3-2.
9:15 a.m. - Kind of a slow start for the Gophers in doubles this morning. The No. 1's are down 2-0, though the No. 3's got a game back and now trail 2-1. Sperling won a long service game and the No. 2's also got a break of serve to lead 2-0. Doubles has been one of the team's strengths this year. Minnesota won the doubles point in seven of its 10 Big Ten matches and went 19-10 combined in conference play. In the first meeting with Penn State, the Gophers swept 8-3, 8-4, 8-5.
9:08 a.m. - Hopefully our fans have been keeping up with the player blogs throughout the season. We've had a different player write a recap during each week of the season. If you haven't had a chance to check them out, be sure to go to the women's tennis page and do so. There's some great stories from this past season and it's a good way to recall how this season has gone for the Gophers. Alessandra Ferrazzi is writing this weekend's blog entry, so hopefully I don't steal all her material. Doubles is underway. Penn State is up 2-0 at No. 3. The other two are still in the first game.
8:58 a.m. - We're just about set to go. Both teams have been warming up for the past hour and it doesn't have the feel of an early-morning match by this point. One indication that it's still early though is that there's only about five fans in the building so far. A Thursday morning at 9 a.m. isn't really an ideal time to draw big crowds.
Here's Penn State's lineup:
No. 1 - Lauren McCarthy-Sarah Lotto
No. 2 - Leyla Morzan-Denisa Zobeideh
No. 3 - Dorothy Dohanics-Maria Prishlyak
No. 1 - McCarthy
No. 2 - Zobeideh
No. 3 - Dohanics
No. 4 - Morzan
No. 5 - Prishlyak
No. 6 - Michaela Stracar
The interesting thing about the Nittany Lions is that their No. 1 singles player from the first meeting with the Gophers, Monika Mical, did not make the trip. Minnesota won that match 5-2 with both of Penn State's victories coming in match tiebreakers. The Gophers swept the doubles matches in that contest back on March 28.
8:06 a.m. The Gophers had an early wake-up call today 6 a.m. to be exact. Coach Tyler Thomson thinks it’s a bit too early for the team’s biggest match of the season and the ladies would probably agree, but they seemed anxious and ready to go this morning during their 6:30 a.m. breakfast. This is the earliest match the Gophers have played this season, though they also played the “breakfast” match at last year’s Big Ten tournament and had success, beating Purdue on the Boilermakers’ home court.
We're going to be indoors today to start. It was about 45 degrees and windy with a slight mist in the air as the team left the hotel today. It’s supposed to be a warm day today in Madison, but there’s no evidence of that yet. There's a good chance the other two matches later today will be outside.
Today’s Gopher lineup is as follows. We’ll post the Penn State lineup as it comes in.
No. 1 Alessandra Ferrazzi and Karina Chiarelli
No. 2 Tijana Koprivica and Jackie Sperling
No. 3 Magdalena Wiecha and Alex Seaton
No. 1 Chiarelli
No. 2 Koprivica
No. 3 Ferrazzi
No. 4 Niltooli Wilkins
No. 5 Wiecha
No. 6 Seaton
Peta Forsyth and Liz Tusler are also along on the trip as alternates as the Big Ten allows up to nine athletes to take part.