ATHENS, Ga. - It didn't matter that Raony Carvalho and Gonzalo Escobar were playing in the NCAA Men's Doubles Championship semifinal on Sunday at the McGill Tennis Complex. They played as if they had nerves of steel.
The No. 18 Texas Tech tandem rolled to a 6-4, 6-2 win over the No. 17 Ole Miss duo of Chris Thiemann and Marcelo Thiemann to advance to the national finals on Sunday.
Texas Tech head coach Tim Siegel sat in seat No. 26 next to the court and saw it all. The number has been a common sign of good luck for the Red Raiders, who were No. 26 in the draw for the Championships.
"I think the turning point in the match was at the very beginning when we got the early break," said Siegel.
Carvalho and Escobar opened with a quick 4-1 lead after picking up a break on the Thiemann twins.
"Ole Miss was more nervous that we were," said Siegel. "(Carvalho and Escobar) moved so much and put the pressure on them. It seemed as if they were more nervous than we were because it was the semifinals of the national championships."
Texas Tech fought off a late surge by Ole Miss to capture the first set, 6-4.
"We got an early break in the second set," said Siegel. "We just played a little more relaxed - a little more solid. It was a terrific match. We made a few more shots than they did to take care of business."
Carvalho and Escobar then in mirror-like fashion pulled ahead, 4-1, with a pair of breaks in the second. Minutes later they cruised to the 6-4, 6-2 win for the opportunity to play for a national championship.
"When you think about this it is crazy," added Siegel "Gonzalo played No. 2 doubles for more than three years. The fact that Gonzalo didn't play with Raony until the middle of the year shows you the most important thing they have is that they are a team. They love playing with each other. They have fun and are so relaxed."
Escobar is the winningest singles and doubles player in the history of Texas Tech. He closed out his career in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Singles Championships earlier this week with 99 career singles wins. He has a school-best 82 career doubles wins. Carvalho is second on the doubles wins chart with 72.
This season the duo is 14-1 and began playing together on March 10. They are 9-1 against ranked opponents and 3-1 against doubles tandems ranked in the Top 10.
Carvalho and Escobar will play for the NCAA Men's Doubles Championship somtime after noon CT on Monday against the No. 1 team in the nation - Ohio State's Chase Buchanan and Blaz Rola.
Buchanan and Rola are 35-9 on the season after upending Oklahoma's Costin Paval and Dane Webb, 4-6, 6-3, 6-4. Paval and Webb are the only tandem to beat Carvalho and Escobar this season.
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