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SURPRISE, Ariz. - Nicolas Moreno de Alboran continues to defy all expectations and continues to help solidify this UC Santa Barbara men's tennis team as one of, if not the best, mid-major program in the country. The senior won both of his matches on Friday in straight-set fashion to advance to the semifinals of the ITA National Fall Championships. Before yesterday, no other Gaucho had even advanced as far as the Round of 16.
"Nic is playing really high-level tennis and he just seems to be getting better with each match," Head Coach Marty Davis said. "His confidence is really high and now he has put himself in a great position to win one of the best tournaments offered."
Moreno de Alboran began his day in a Round of 32 match against Baylor university's Johannes Schretter who is ranked No. 33 in the country, just one behind the UCSB senior. With the pressure on the line, Moreno de Alboran responded well making quick work of Schretter defeating him in straight sets by scores of 6-0, 6-3.
In the first, the New York native dominated converting 11 of his 14 first serves and winning three of four break points. In addition, Moreno de Alboran also won 58 percent of first return points and 100 percent of second return points. In the second, Schretter put up more of a challenge saving a few break points, but the senior Bear was no match for the senior Gaucho who had two aces, hit 68 percent of his first serves, 100 percent of his second serves, and won 68 percent first serve points.
Following the win, Moreno de Alboran turned his attention yet again to Christian Sigsgaard of Texas. The two had met two times this fall with Moreno de Alboran getting the better of him the first at the Oracle Masters but Sigsgaard rebounding in the second match at the All-American Championships. Both matches went three sets.
And yet, in the rubber match, it was Moreno de Alboran who came out firing and earning the win, 6-3, 6-4. Despite it being a straight set win, nothing came easy in this match for Moreno de Alboran as Sigsgaard did have a better first-serve percentage but in the end, Moreno de Alboran came out the victor.
In the match, Moreno de Alboran converted 70 percent of his first serves, 88 percent of his second, saved a couple break points and won 79 percent of his first serves.
"It was great for Nic to get this win and sort of taking the tiebreak. Sigsgaard is a great player but Nic is playing tennis at a high level and so the result does not shock me," Davis said.
With the win, Moreno de Alboran advances to the semifinals where he will face another familiar foe, USC's Daniel Cukierman who is ranked No. 31 in the country. The two faced off once this fall with the UCSB senior earning the win 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Still, both he and Coach Davis know Cukierman is no easy opponent.
In their earlier match this year, Moreno de Alboran had match points at 5-1 and 5-3 in the third set, but Cukierman fought them both off and continued fighting before eventually falling. Even today, Cukierman was down a set and 5-3 in the second before battling to eventually win 7-6 (4) and then take the final set 6-2.
"Cukierman is a competitor he just always battles back and never really goes away or shy from any competition," Davis said. "Nicolas will have a tough match tomorrow but I am confident he knows what he has to do to get the win and try to make history."
A lot is on the line for Moreno de Alboran. With a win, he will advance to the finals where he will face either Thomas Laurent of Oregon, ranked No. 8, or the No. 1 tennis player in the country, Wake Forest's Petros Chrysochos.
If he was to win there as well, not only will Moreno de Alboran be a champion but he will also receive a main draw wildcard into a 2019 Oracle Challenger Series tournament, a professional tournament. Regardless of that, there is no doubt the only thing on Moreno de Alboran's mind is tomorrow and Cukierman. He has to take care of business there first.
"I said this before but Nic and I know we are no longer in the stage of just being happy to be here. He knows he deserves to be here and he knows he could hang with these guys, they aren't that far in skill level anymore. Now he just has to go out there and beat them," Davis said.
Moreno de Alboran will face Cukierman at 11:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m. pacific time on Saturday, November 10. The match can be live streamed at this link.