May 28, 2012
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Eric Quigley's historic four-year career as a member of the University of Kentucky men's tennis team came to an end Monday in the NCAA Singles Final as he fell in a tight battle to No. 1 Steve Johnson of Southern California at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. Johnson, who won the NCAA Singles title last season as well, earned late breaks in both the first and second sets to defeat the UK star 6-4, 6-4.
"I don't even know where to begin, it has been the best four years of my life," Quigley said about his career at Kentucky. "I never dreamed of accomplishing half the things that I was able to accomplish here. I really owe a lot to Cedric Kauffmann and Dennis Emery for all they have done for me. I don't really have words to describe the last four years. It's been a dream."
The impressive tournament run by Quigley put him in exclusive company, becoming only the third player in school history to play in the NCAA Singles Final. The UK star joins fellow All-Americans Jesse Witten and Carlos Drada as the only players to advance to the finals of the singles event. Witten was the last to claim the feat, making the finals of the event in 2002, while Drada made the finals in 2000. Witten and Drada both lost in the finals. All three finals appearances occurred under the director of Dennis Emery.
Monday's match was the second career finals appearance for Quigley in a collegiate grand slam. Quigley advanced to the finals of the D'Novo/Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American Championships in 2010 to become only the sixth UK player to advance to a collegiate grand slam singles or doubles final. Quigley is now the second player in school history to advance to two grand slam finals, joining Witten, who went to the 2002 NCAA Singles Final and the 2004 ITA National Indoor Singles Finals.
Johnson and Quigley were neck and neck a majority of the match as only two breaks occurred the entire match. Both players held serve four times to start the match before Johnson broke Quigley at 4-4 to go up 5-4 and then held serve to claim the first set 6-4.
"I knew that I had to play aggressive today and step into the court," Quigley said about the game plan entering the match. "I had to make shots because I knew he would not make mistakes, and he didn't. I tried to lean and play the percentages, but he just hit too many big serves."
The second set featured the same type of format as Quigley, who had several break points in the set, held serve in his first three service games before Johnson grabbed a break and then held serve to go up 5-3. Quigley would hold serve in dominating fashion to cut the lead to 5-4, but Johnson used great serving in his service game to hold serve and grab the 6-4 win.
"I thought I served well again today and had some chances, but he came up with some big first serves in key situations," Quigley said. "That is what makes him so good is when he is able to make those big shots at such critical times of the match. I am happy with the way I played and I wish I would have won, but I'm not disappointed. I had a great career and a great week out here."
"Eric played a good match today, but Steve served the ball so well in those difficult situations and that was the difference," UK head coach Dennis Emery said. "Eric just couldn't get over the hump and Steve deserves a lot of credit for how well he used his serve to get out of problems."
This was the second career match between Quigley and Johnson, with the USC senior winning both matches. The previous matchup came in the 2011 NCAA Elite Eight matchup between UK and USC with Johnson taking down Quigley at the No. 1 singles position 6-4, 6-2.
Johnson, who has spent most the season ranked No. 1 in the nation on top of being voted the national winner of the ITA Senior Player of the Year Award, ends his collegiate career having won 72 consecutive singles match, last losing Jan. 17, 2011. This was the second consecutive singles title for Johnson at the event.
"I was asked after the match if Steve Johnson is the best collegiate player of all time and I think it's hard to vote against him for that," Emery said. "But what I think describes him best is that he is the most productive player of all time. When you win four team championships and two singles championships then you have had a very special career."
Quigley had to defeat some of the best players in the nation to advance to the singles final, taking down five ranked players, including four that are ranked in the top 20 in the nation. The run to the finals began with a 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 41 Andre Dome of Cal Poly in the first round before Quigley defeated No. 18 Andreas Mies of Auburn 7-6 (4), 6-3 to advance to the round of 16. Quigley's Sweet 16 win came in thrilling action, taking down No. 13 Artem Ilyushin of Mississippi State 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) before he earned a 6-4, 6-3 win over Henrique Cunha of Duke in the quarterfinals. Quigley faced No. 9 Blaz Rola of Ohio State in the semifinal Sunday, using a come-from-behind effort to grab the win 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1).
The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., ends his senior season with a 54-8 record, which is the most wins in a single season in school history. The impressive mark this year took Quigley's career total to 172-47, which is the most wins in school history by a large amount, shattering the previous record by 27 wins.
The stellar tournament run by the UK star completed one of the most historic careers in school history. On top of being named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Year this season, Quigley received the ITA Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award, which honors sportsmanship and on the court accomplishments. Quigley ends his career at Kentucky as a five-time All-American, earning three singles honors and two doubles honors. The senior was both a singles and doubles All-American this season.
For more information on the Kentucky men's tennis team, follow "UKMensTennis" on Twitter or like "University of Kentucky men's tennis team" on Facebook.
NCAA Singles Championship
First Round - Wednesday, May 23, 2012
#3 Eric Quigley (3), KENTUCKY def. #41 Andre Dome, CAL POLY, 7-5, 6-4
#15 Alex Musialek (9-16), KENTUCKY def. #69 Damian Hume, BOISE STATE, 5-7, 6-1, 6-2
#2 Mitchell Frank (2), VIRGINIA def. #22 Anthony Rossi, KENTUCKY 6-4, 6-4
Second Round - Thursday, May 24, 2012
#3 Eric Quigley (3), KENTUCKY def. #18 Andreas Mies, AUBURN, 7-6(4), 6-3
#15 Alex Musialek (9-16), KENTUCKY def. #52 Ignacio Taboada, GEORGIA 6-2, 6-7 (9), 6-4
Round of 16 - Friday, May 25, 2012
#3 Eric Quigley (3), KENTUCKY def. #13 Artem Ilyushin (9-16), MISSISSIPPI STATE 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4)
#39 Alex Domijan, VIRGINIA def. #15 Alex Musialek (9-16), KENTUCKY 6-0, 3-6, 6-2
Quarterfinals - Saturday, May 26, 2012
#3 Eric Quigley (3), KENTUCKY def. #5 Henrique Cunha (5), DUKE 6-4, 6-3
Semifinals - Sunday, May 27, 2012
#3 Eric Quigley (3), KENTUCKY def. #9 Blaz Rola (9-16), OHIO STATE 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1)
Finals - Monday, May 28, 2012
#1 Steve Johnson (1), SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA def. #3 Eric Quigley (3), KENTUCKY 6-4, 6-4
NCAA Doubles Championship
First Round - Thursday, May 24, 2012
#7 Eric Quigley/Panav Jha (5-8), KENTUCKY def. Gregg Cohenca/Evan Zimmer, BUCKNELL 6-2, 6-0
Round of 16 - Friday, May 25, 2012
#7 Eric Quigley/Panav Jha (5-8), KENTUCKY def. #68 Andre Dome/Matt Fawcett, CAL POLY 7-6, 6-3
Quarterfinals - Saturday, May 25, 2012
#1 Blaz Rola/Chase Buchanan (1), OHIO STATE def. #7 Eric Quigley/Panav Jha (5-8), KENTUCKY 6-3, 6-4
Highlights and Interview