Facing an opponent that seemed to pull even whenever Matija Pecotic put together a lead Friday afternoon in Tulsa, it was Pecotic who had the last rally.
Becoming the first Princeton tennis player in 30 years to make the ITA All-America men's quarterfinals, Tiger senior Matija Pecotic defeated USC's Roberto Quiroz 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(11) in an epic match that had both men on the brink of victory.
"Undoubtedly it was a very exciting match and could've gone either way," Princeton coach Billy Pate said. "There were momentum swings throughout the entire contest. Matija really played a solid first set and had chances to gain the upper hand in the second. But Quiroz is an immensely experienced and talented player. We knew he would make a push, which he did."
The drama began in the second set, where Pecotic led 3-2 before Quiroz won the last four games to square the match. In the third set, Pecotic again built a lead, this time at 4-1 before Quiroz won three straight games.
The match found its way into a tiebreak, and at 6-2 Quiroz was one point away from ending Pecotic's run. Instead, the two-time Ivy League Player of the Year scored four straight points to stay alive, battling it out all the way to a 13-11 win in the extra session. Pecotic fought off six match points in the tiebreak and won on his third own match point.
"Quiroz again picked up his level while capitlizing on some nervous mistakes on our end (in the second set)," Pate said. "Fortunately, Matija hung tough and found a way to grind out the win. It's a great win, but most importantly he's starting to understand he can choose to not only be on the same level nationally as these guys but even better. Tomorrow is a new day and we'll look to maintain the positive momentum."
Ted Farnsworth '84 was the last Princeton man to advance this far in the ITA draw, doing so as a junior in 1982. Harvard's James Blake was the last Ivy League player to make the final eight, getting there in 1998.
Saturday in the quarterfinal at 10:30 a.m. ET, Pecotic will face another USC player, this time a seeded foe in Raymond Sarmiento, the No. 7 seed in the 64-player main draw. Of the final eight players, only three seeded players are left, with the highest remaining seeded player being No. 6 Alex Domjian of Virginia in the other quarterfinal on Pecotic's side of the bracket. Live scores for the event are here.
With the quarterfinal berth, Pecotic has also earned his way into the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships in New York starting Nov. 8.