Monday Mayhem: College Stars Shine on Opening Day

River Oaks’ own version of March Madness was put on full display during opening day at the 2024 Fayez Sarofim U.S. Men’s Clay Court Championships. In the singles field, six players representing five college alma maters competed on Stadium Court throughout the day: 

-No. 5 Chris Eubanks (Georgia Tech)
-Rinky Hijikata (University of North Carolina)
-JJ Wolf (Ohio State)
-Brandon Nakashima (University of Virginia)
-Alexander Ritschard (University of Virginia)
-Patrick Kypson (Texas A&M)

Nakashima kicked off the main draw with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Croatian Duje Adjukovic. The 22-year-old American, currently being coached by Wayne Ferreira, won 23 of 29 service points in a convincing first round victory. 

A former top 50 player, Nakashima is one of 14 men in the 28-player singles field making their first appearance at River Oaks this year. 

“It’s so beautiful here,” said Nakashima in his post-match interview with host Blair Henley. “I’m happy to play in Houston for the first time and appreciate all of the home crowd support that I received today.”

In Monday’s second match, Belgian Zizou Bergs defeated American Kypson 7-6(5), 6-3. Bergs will take on No. 1 seed Ben Shelton in the second round later this week.

“Ben has a huge game and is still so young,” said Bergs in his post-match interview. “It will be a very tough match, but fortunately I’ve had experience playing against a few big names this year that I can learn from when playing Ben.”

Hijikata Upsets Eubanks in First Career Clay Court Match

Hijikata’s debut ATP career clay court match proved successful as he and Eubanks kicked off Monday’s evening matches in a battle of big servers. With 15 combined aces between them, HIjikata defeated No. 5 Eubanks in a pair of tight tie-breakers 7-6(4), 7-6(2) to set up a second round clash against Nakashima. 

In the second match of the evening, Wolf defeated Ritschard of Switzerland 6-3, 2-6, 6-4. Wolf is coached by former ATP top 20 player, Robby Ginepri, who he credited for the value Ginepri has brought to his game during his post-match interview.

“I’ve tried to be resilient with my injuries and just keep my head down and work hard,” Wolf told Henley. “Robby and the rest of my team have been a huge help for me by adding a lot of experience and wisdom to my game. I love playing here in Texas - it’s the only red clay tournament in the States.”

Monday Doubles Roundup

Defending singles champion Frances Tiafoe and Michael Mmoh kicked off doubles action on Monday against the Indian pairing of Anirudh Chandrasekar and Vijay Sundar Prashanth. Despite a packed house of American fans supporting “Team Mmoh-Foe” on Court 3, the Americans came up short against the talented Indian duo, 6-3, 6-4. 

Last year’s doubles champions, Max Purcell and Jordan Thompson, successfully began their title defense with a three-set victory over American Evan King and Australian John-Patrick Smith 6-4, 6-7(5), 10-4. 

Purcell and Thompson have been one of the top ATP doubles teams to beat thus far in 2024. They are 13-2 on the year with two titles at Dallas and Los Cabos. Purcell is also aiming to become the first player to win the doubles title three years in a row at River Oaks since Bob and Mike Bryan from 2009-2011.

In the last doubles match of the day, Australian John Peers and American Will Blumberg dispatched Piotr Matuszewski and Matthew Christopher Romios 6-0, 6-3 in just under 45 minutes. Peers, who is making his first return to Houston since winning the title in 2013, holds eight career clay court titles (and 27 total career titles) - the most of any doubles player in the field. 

Blumberg, a 2024 Dallas Open doubles finalist alongside fellow UNC Tar Heel Hijikata, became the first 10-time All-American in Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) history.


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