The match was a battle from the beginning, but while Sanford showed in the first set she had what it takes to challenge the reigning champion, Shibahara capitalized on three aces while going 3-for-3 on break points to take the set 7-5.
Sanford came alive in the second set as she was able to win 3-of-4 break points. The real difference maker was Shibahara’s five double faults, which gave Sanford the edge in making a swift comeback to win the set, 6-3, and tie the match.
It was the final set that tested the endurance of not just Sanford and Shibahara, but the crowd as well. The pair traded games for over an hour until finally playing into the deciding tiebreaker. Shibahara came close to winning her second-straight Oracle ITA Masters, but failed to capitalize on five match points.
Brandon Holt of USC and Victor Pham of Columbia competed in a close but much more expedited match. Pham showed early that he would be a challenge for the No. 2 seeded Holt, but Holt was able to pull off 4-of-6 break points to cruise through the first set, 6-3.
Both would battle hard in the second set, with Pham fighting through three aces by Holt and two of his own double faults to force a tiebreaker. Holt found his groove during the tiebreaker, however, and was able to secure victory, as well as the championship, winning the set, 7-6(2).
“Brandon did so many little things so well and it was just a great contrast between the semis and finals,” said USC Men’s Tennis Head Coach, Peter Smith. “To see him change his game and adapt his game and use the court, he uses every inch on the court, it’s just a pleasure to watch him play and be a part of it.”
“The tournament was amazing,” said Smith. “To finish it off at the Malibu Racquet Club is just a really special experience for Brandon and myself.”