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The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Filip Planinsek becomes first in school history to win national title in NCAA men’s tennis singles tournament

CW / Elijah McWhorter
Alabama tennis player Filip Planinsek celebrates during his match against Florida.

Alabama’s men’s tennis season may be over as a team, but one player on the roster has made school history.

On Saturday, junior Filip Planinsek became the first Crimson Tide player to win a national championship in the men’s singles tournament. He sealed the title with a win in three sets over Columbia’s Michael Zheng (6-7, 6-3, 6-2).

The championship was a rematch of Feb. 17, when the two last met in singles. That matchup went unfinished, but on Saturday, the two fought a decisive battle for the championship.

Planinsek, who earned First Team All-SEC honors, entered the week as the No. 29 singles player in the country. His season-long efforts earned him a spot in the 64-player NCAA Singles Tournament this week in Stillwater, Oklahoma. 

After a first round victory against the No. 118 player Jonas Hartenstein from North Florida, Planinsek won five consecutive matches over players ranked higher than him nationally. 

After beating No. 5 Micah Braswell from Texas in the round of 16, Planinsek defeated No. 15 Cooper WIlliams from Harvard in the quarterfinals. The victory made him the first player in school history to advance to the national semifinals of the singles tournament.

On Friday, Planinsek defeated No. 9 Ozan Baris from Michigan State in the semifinals in three sets (7-5, 5-7, 7-6) to advance to the championship.

Perhaps what made Planinsek’s historic championship run more impressive was how he was able to come back in both the semifinals and championship.

After trailing 6-5 in the final set of his semifinal match, Planinsek survived elimination and tied the set at 6. In the tiebreaker, where players play first to seven points or higher and must win by two, Planinsek was down 5-1 and then 6-3. 

He held his own, scoring three consecutive points to force a tie at 6 and stay alive. After coming back to draw with Baris, Planinsek finished the job, scoring two more points to win the match and advance to the national final.

“I don’t even know what just happened,” Planinsek said. “It was an awesome match. He’s a great player and a great competitor.”

In the final, Planinsek fell 6-7 in the first set. He then roared back, outscoring Zheng 6-3 in the second set and scoring five of the last six points to win the third set 6-2.

Planinsek said he felt sure after the opening-set loss that he could win the final two. 

“I was confident of that,” he said. “I broke quite early in the second set and then momentum started building.”

After the final match, Alabama men’s tennis head coach George Husack expressed how happy he was to see Planinsek win. 

“He played for himself, his family and The University of Alabama,” Husack said. “We are so incredibly proud of him and this historic first for our program.”

After the match, Planinsek expressed how thrilled he was, thanking the coaching staff and athletic trainer Katie Wheeler for his success this season.

Planinsek will look to continue to add to his newly cemented legacy next season. In the press conference after his semifinal victory, Planinsek announced he will return to Alabama for his senior season.

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