Ohio State tennis exacts revenge, wins national title

Bill Rabinowitz

Winning any national championship is special. Doing so against the opponent that denied you one in the last meeting adds to it.

Last May, Wake Forest defeated Ohio State 4-2 in the NCAA men’s tennis finals on the Demon Deacons’ home court. On Monday at the Midtown Athletic Club in Chicago, the top-seeded Buckeyes won the ITA National Indoor Team Championship by the same score over No. 3 Wake Forest.

“If it’s against anybody, it was going to be just as sweet, but it was nice to beat Wake Forest,” Ohio State coach Ty Tucker said.

It was the Buckeyes’ second Indoor title; the first was in 2014. Ohio State has been the runner-up in the tournament five times.

Martin Joyce clinched the victory for Ohio State with a 7-5, 7-5 victory over Melios Efstathiou at No. 4 singles. Joyce broke serve in the next-to-last game and then rallied from 0-30 down to close out the match.

JJ Wolf won easily at No. 1 singles over Borna Gojo, 6-0, 6-3. Alex Kobelt won 6-3, 6-3 over Yuval Solomon at No. 5. Ohio State also won the doubles point. John McNally and Hunter Tubert won in a tiebreak at No. 3 doubles after Kyle Seelig and Kobelt won 6-1 and Wolf and Joyce lost 6-3.

Seelig lost 6-2, 6-3 at No. 3 singles. McNally’s match at No. 2 was tied at a set apiece and just starting the third set when Joyce clinched the title.

Ohio State has supplemented its team in recent years with star international players, but this year’s team is mostly homegrown.

“What makes this team special is you’ve got four starters who grew up 100 miles from Columbus,” Tucker said.

Wolf and McNally are from Cincinnati. Kobelt, the brother of former OSU star Peter Kobelt, is from New Albany. Tubert is from Huntington, West Virginia.

Joyce grew up the farthest from Ohio State, in suburban Chicago. Clinching the championship made it a special homecoming for the senior.

“Even though he’s not going to play tennis professionally, he plays tennis like he wants to be a professional,” said Tucker, adding that Joyce has been accepted to the graduate accounting program at the University of Texas. “He trains it, he lives, he breathes it, he thinks it, he studies it.”

Kobelt is a late bloomer. He was ranked only 350th as a high school senior four years ago, Tucker said.

“He’s a redshirt junior now and has two wins against guys that were top-five in the country when he was 300-something,” Tucker said.

Wolf and McNally are the linchpins at the top singles spots.

“Wolf might be the best player in the country right now,” Tucker said, “and McNally is playing top-10 tennis.”

Ohio State rolled to a 3-0 lead against Wake Forest, but the final victory was elusive.

“We were actually putting a good little whipping on them, and then we blinked a little bit,” Tucker said.

Tubert, Joyce and McNally all were up a set and a break before faltering.

“But we refocused and settled ourselves and won that match,” Tucker said. “We could have been out of there 30 minutes earlier. It’s tough to close out any match, and especially a national championship.”



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