There were no college tennis matches in New Jersey Tuesday, but to anyone at the Mercer County Tennis Center, Princeton’s orange and black stood out brilliantly as the colors of the day.
The pounding, relentless summer sun didn’t do much to slow two of Princeton’s biggest stars, as Matija Pecotic and Lindsay Graff each won their respective division at the Middle States Sectional Qualifying tournament in the US Open National Playoffs.
As a mixed doubles team, Graff and Pecotic advance to the US Open National Playoffs – Mixed Doubles Championship. The winners there earn a wild card into the main draw of the US Open, one of the world’s most prestigious sporting events.
As winners in the singles draw, each individual advances in the US Open National Playoffs, where they will compete for titles in men’s and women’s singles. Winners of that tournament, scheduled from Aug. 16-19 in New Haven, Conn., advance into the qualifying rounds of the US Open. Mixed doubles will be held Aug. 21-24 in the same location.
“It was a great day, a lot of fun out there,” a beaming Pecotic said after Tuesday’s final match. “I can’t wait for the next one.”
After four days of what seemed to be non-stop play, the 149 total entrants in the Middle States Sectional Qualifier of the 2013 US Open National Playoffs were down to the final eight on Tuesday morning, with championship matches in men’s, women’s and mixed doubles taking place throughout the day.
Action began with the 10 a.m. men’s final between Pecotic, a recent Princeton grad and Ivy League Player of the Year, and Nikita Kryvonos, the tournament’s No. 1 seed. Pecotic took the win, 6-4, 6-2, in a match that was much closer than the final score showed.
“It was a close one – a big win,” Pecotic said. “He’s a good player, and it was tough.”
The day didn’t end there for Pecotic, as he immediately took the court to help Graff, his former Princeton teammate, warm up for her singles match. During the next two hours, Princeton represented once again.
Graff won her match over Jackie Wu, 6-2, 6-4, for the women’s title and the right to advance to New Haven. And as it was after the men’s match, the break didn’t last. Graff had about an hour to rest before once again stepping on court for the mixed doubles final alongside Pecotic.
It’s safe to say the duo was warmed up.
Graff and Pecotic faced Veronica Corning and Nikola Kocovic, two college standouts who lost just one set in mixed doubles throughout the first three tournament rounds. Kocovic played No. 1 singles for Penn last season, while Corning was an All-Big 10 selection at Northwestern.
From the start of the match, it was obvious that the match would evolve into a tight one, with powerful serves and precise winners coming from both sides of the court.
Early in the second round, pouring rain delayed the match and moved things inside, where Graff and Pecotic put away Corning and Kocovic by winning the final two games.
“Matija has just been an inspiration all year,” Graff said of Pecotic. “Watching him compete every day and do so well as a teammate at Princeton, it’s been amazing. He’s so positive and so, so good. He’s the reason I’m in this tournament to begin with.”
Both Graff and Pecotic had tremendous spring seasons at Princeton, with Graff earning First Team All-Ivy League honors and Pecotic finishing his career as one of the most decorated student-athletes in Princeton history. Pecotic is the first three-time Ivy League Player of the Year in tennis history.
The US Open National Playoffs Championships will take place Aug. 24-27 at Yale. Middle States will follow the progress of both players in each draw, and will keep up with photos, stories and more as they prepare for the tournament.