A&M doubles tennis team wins national championship

TANFORD, Calif -- Austin Krajicek and Jeff Dadamo became the first ever Texas A&M national champions in tennis winning the 2011 NCAA Doubles Championship by defeating the host Stanford doubles team of Bradley Klahn and Ryan Thacher, 7-6 (4), 6-3, at the Taube Family Tennis Center at Stanford on Memorial Day.

"We played well today," Krajicek said. "I think we had a good tournament all week. We served well and were aggressive with our volleys. We were pretty familiar with Stanford since we faced them in the team match a little over a week ago. We knew there were going to be a lot of people out and they would be loud. We just focused on our game and didn't let it affect us that much. It's fun playing in that kind of atmosphere when it's really loud. It makes the match more exciting and I think Jeff and I enjoyed it."

These two doubles teams faced each other on May 19 in the NCAA Round of 16 team competition with A&M winning the doubles point by virtue of Dadamo and Krajicek defeating Klahn and Thacher, 9-8, in a tiebreaker.

"We've played them a couple of times before," Dadamo said. "I think that helped us prepare for today's match and to kind of know what to expect. We stayed on top of them and kept the pressure on most of the match."

Monday's match started with Stanford breaking the only service game of the day against Krajicek and Dadamo to go up 2-1 in the first set.

"We played a little too loose early and Stanford took advantage to break," Krajicek said.

The Fightin' Texas Aggies would come right back and break Stanford's serve to tie the first set 3-3. The first set went to a tiebreaker and the Aggies put together a nice run to finish off the first set, 7-4, in the tiebreaker and win the first set, 7-6.

"There was a point in the tiebreaker that could have gone the other way and Jeff (Dadamo) hit a great backhand shot for a winner to give the boys a little separation," Aggie head coach Steve Denton said. "That was a great shot."

"All year long when we've been in the tiebreakers, Austin and I have a lot of confidence in each other and we just try to raise our game to another level," Dadamo said.

The Aggies took the momentum of the first set and broke Stanford early in the second set to go up 2-1 and then Krajicek kept serve to up the lead to 3-1. Stanford would hold serve to close to 3-2 before Dadamo served a quick game to put the Aggies ahead 4-2 in the second set. The Cardinal held serve to move within 4-3 and Krajicek followed with another win to extend the Aggie lead to 5-3.

In what turned out to be the final game of the set and match, the Aggies were down 40-15 and worked the game back to deuce, fought off one Stanford advantage and even played an extra point in the process. A&M would have the advantage and then a strong forehand winner by Dadamo clinched the game, set, match and the national championship for Texas A&M.

"We've had several breaks where we have been down and bounced back," Dadamo said. "It seems this year some of the guys let up a bit and Austin and I would just keep fighting back. We had a lot of fun and we were prepared to play well today."

"Give the Texas A&M guys credit," Ryan Thacher of Stanford said. "They played a great match."

"I am very proud of the boys," Denton said. "They really played solid in all areas today. When they were able to bounce back and break to tie the match in the first set you could see their confidence build. The guys took care of their service games, only losing one serve, they returned well and they really volleyed extremely well. They were just rock solid on a big stage today."

"I thought it was appropriate that the final shot was a forehand winner from Jeff," Denton explained. "These guys will always be Aggies, but in their final appearance on the collegiate tennis courts representing Texas A&M to come out winning the national championship, I could not be more proud of them. They have always been winners, but now they can say they are national champs."

The national championship is actually Krajicek and Dadamo's second since the dynamic A&M duo won the USTA/ITA Indoor Doubles National Championship in Flushing, New York, last fall. The first-round match in New York was between the top Aggie and Stanford doubles teams. A&M posted an 8-5 win in that first-round match.

The most outstanding Aggie doubles team in history, Krajicek and Dadamo have already earned All-America honors for the second consecutive year by being seeded third in the NCAA Championships. The Aggie dynamic duo posted a 27-3 dual match record this spring.

This spring, Dadamo won the 2011 Most Outstanding Player honor in helping lead the Aggies to the 2011 Big 12 Championships crown, and Dadamo was honored as the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year in 2010.

Krajicek, the two-time Big 12 Player of the Year and the all-time Aggie leader in doubles victories now with 112 wins, advanced to the quarterfinals as a sophomore and reached the NCAA semifinals as a freshman with former teammate Conor Pollock.

The NCAA tennis championship is the oldest national championship recognized by the NCAA dating back to 1883 when the U.S. Lawn Tennis Association was hosted by Trinity College. Some of the previous individual champions included Arthur Ashe (singles and doubles in 1965), John McEnroe (singles in 1978), Mikael Pernfors (singles in 1984 and 1985) and Chris Woodruff (singles 1993).

Ever since this NCAA format has been in place on the men's side since 1946, this marked the first Texas A&M singles or doubles team to reach the NCAA Championship finals. Krajicek, from Brandon, Florida, reached the NCAA doubles semifinals his freshman season with teammate Conor Pollock. Dadamo, from Tampa, Florida, transferred to A&M after playing his first two seasons with Florida.

The national championship adds to the outstanding resume of the Aggie tennis coaches, Texas A&M head coach Steve Denton and assistant Bob McKinley are very familiar with outstanding doubles play. McKinley, who was recently named the 2011 National ITA Assistant Coach of the Year, was a four-time All-American at Trinity University and reached the NCAA finals twice in his career. He also coached two doubles teams to the national championship match with Erick Iskersky and Ben McKown winning the national championship in 1979, and then Tony Giammalva and John Benson was the national runner-up in 1980 for Trinity. On the professional circuit, McKinley reached the doubles semifinals of the U.S. Open and Denton won the U.S. Open doubles crown in 1982. Both McKinley and Denton reached the ranking of No. 2 in the world in doubles during their professional careers. Both Denton and McKinley are members of the ITA Hall of Fame.