LEXINGTON, Ky. - University of Kentucky men's tennis star Eric Quigley made history Saturday at the 2010 D'Novo/ITA All-American Championships, becoming only the sixth UK player in school history to play in the finals of a collegiate tennis grand slam tournament. Quigley fell in the championship match to the country's top-ranked freshman, Alex Domijan of Virginia, 6-4, 4-6, 3-6 at the Michael D. Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla., on Sunday.
"It was a good match today," Quigley said. "I had a great week and I think that I played really well all week long. There were some tough matches against some great players and today was no different. Alex is good and I had a good start against him, but had a little stretch there that cost me the match."
Quigley joins former UK greats Jesse Witten, Carlos Drada, Cedric Kauffmann, Greg Van Emburgh and Rich Benson as the only players in Kentucky's rich history of tennis to play in one of the four collegiate grand slam tournaments. Witten, who many consider the best player in school history, played in two finals: the 2004 ITA National Indoors Singles finals and the 2002 NCAA Singles Championship finals. Drada, who is now the head women's tennis coach at UK, played in the 2000 NCAA Singles Championship finals, while UK men's tennis associate head coach Kauffmann was a singles finalist in the 1997 Clay Court Singles Championships during his playing days at UK. The only other finals appearance for UK in a grand slam was in 1986 when Emburgh/Benson played in the All-American Doubles Championship finals. UK has never had a grand slam winner.
"I think this was a great event for Eric and another breakthrough performance for him," UK men's tennis head coach Dennis Emery said. "The thing that I liked about his performance was that at the beginning of the tournament he was not playing great tennis but was still finding ways to win against some of the best players in the country. Then, as the tournament went on and he got to the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals, he played at a really high level."
Both players came out hot in the first set, going back and forth with the lead before Quigley broke Domijan to tie the match a 2-2 and then held serve to take a 3-2 lead. After both players continued to make key winners, Quigley held serve to go up 5-4 and then scored four consecutive points to break Domijan and claim the first set 6-4. It marked the first time in the entire tournament that the UVA freshman had dropped a set.
In the second set, Quigley and Domijan were tied at 2-2 before Domijan was able to break Quigley and after holding serve go up 4-2. Quigley would fight back to cut the lead to 5-4, but the talented Domijan held on and gathered the second set 6-4 to force a decisive third set.
The third set started the same as the two before with both players holding serve and making key shots to keep the match knotted at 3-3. Domijan then got the first break of the set and followed by winning the next two games to take the set 6-3 and the match 4-6, 6-4, 6-3.
"I think one of the things that Eric does well is compete," Emery said. "He has a tremendous amount of composure on the court and I thought that was evident in this tournament. He is a player who has a high degree of emotional intelligence, and in our sport that is one of the greatest traits you can have."
Quigley's run to the championship was a tough one as the junior had to post five wins over a top-45 ranked player in the tournament. Quigley defeated No. 31 Neal Skupski of LSU (7-5, 6-1) in the opening round and followed that win with a victory over No. 44 Jamie Pulgar of North Carolina State (3-6, 6-3, 6-2.). On Friday, Quigley took down No. 28 John Peers of Baylor (4-6, 7-6 (3), 6-1), advancing to his second consecutive quarterfinal appearance at the ITA All-American Championships, where he took down No. 13 Singh of Virginia (6-4, 6-1). Quigley sealed his ticket in the championship with a straight-sets victory over No. 45 Reid Carleton of Duke (6-4, 6-3).
"Special kudos goes out to associate head coach Cedric Kauffmann, who does so many valuable things in our program," Emery said about Kauffmann handling the coaching duties with the team in Tulsa this week. "None of the really good things that have happened over the last three years in our program would have been possible without him. At the end of last year when we reviewed our program, it was obvious that our administration, Mitch Barnhart, athletics director, and Russ Pear, senior associate athletics director, recognized how valuable he was. He just really does a lot of good things with our players, including Eric."
"It was great having coach Kauffmann there coaching me this weekend," Quigley said. "He has played in some big-time matches like grand slams and major collegiate matches so I knew that I could trust what he was telling me."
Quigley is putting together an impressive fall season so far, reaching the finals in both tournaments he has played in. In late September, Quigley played in the Land Rover Napa Valley Tennis Classic, winning his group and earning a spot in the USTA Wildcard Shootout before falling to No. 9 Alex Lacroix of Florida. Overall this fall, Quigley is 10-2 in singles with his two losses coming to No. 9 Lacroix and Domijan, who is ranked No. 550 in the ATP rankings for his play in pro events as an amateur.
"Even though Eric lost today in the finals of this highly competitive tournament, I know he and the rest of the players on our team are going to stay committed to winning national championships, both individually and as a team," Emery said. "Now we get back to work on Monday."