Nicole Gibbs wins women's crown
ATHENS, Ga. -- Nicole Gibbs and Mallory Burdette had no trouble putting aside their differences to help Stanford win its second national title of the day.
Not long after Gibbs knocked off her Cardinal teammate 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 to win the NCAA singles title, she and Burdette joined forces to beat Georgia's Chelsey Gullickson and Nadja Gilchrist for the doubles championship Monday.
"It's hard to play your teammate in such a big moment," Stanford coach Lele Forood said. "And then to come back and double with them to win a title is a testament to how mature they both are and that they could do what they had to do today."
Gibbs and Burdette credited their 6-2, 6-4 doubles victory with having already gotten over the nerves of playing on a big stage. Following a 2-hour, 40-minute singles match, Gibbs and Burdette weren't affected when rain forced the doubles match to be played entirely indoors.
Their legs benefited, too, from an 80-minute delay between the end of the singles and the start of doubles.
"We make it really tough on our opponents when we make a lot of first serves and a lot of returns," said Burdette, who paired with Hilary Barte to win the 2011 doubles title for Stanford. "We make them play every single point and then we're putting pressure on them by moving around at the net. I think we do a great job of that."
The doubles victory assuaged any awkward feelings that followed the singles match.
After beating her teammate, Gibbs seemed almost apologetic.
"I got to look that pain of losing in the eye in the second set," Gibbs said. "Just being down in the breaker, I saw it multiple times, so I know how tough that is and I wouldn't wish that on a teammate in any other situation. I'm happy that I won, but I'm also sad for her as well."
Gibbs, the No. 3 seed, trailed 4-1 in the second set and 5-2 in the tiebreaker before the fifth-seeded Burdette double-faulted to even the match.
Gibbs, a sophomore, is the first Stanford woman to win the singles title since Amber Liu in 2004. The last championship match with two Stanford women came in 2001 when Laura Granville beat Lauren Kalvaria.
"I've been through that few times, so the hard thing is to find somewhere to sit and not fidget too much because it is unusual," said Forood, who has led the Cardinal to six NCAA team titles in 12 seasons as coach. "I was not surprised at the length of the match. Obviously, there was a little bit of see-sawing, but I'd seen them play already once this year in a final and it was similar."
Though she started slowly in singles, Gibbs regained some of the momentum she had from taking a three-set victory Sunday over No. 1 seed Allie Will of Florida.
Gibbs needed to get a feel for the power of Burdette's serve and return before she could gauge how much energy to expend.
"I just had to use as much grit as I had to kind of claw my way back into the match," Gibbs said. "All I could do was just play defense to the best of my ability and take my advantage whenever she gave me an opportunity on offense."
Burdette couldn't fully explain why she struggled in the last two sets.
"I definitely helped her out a little bit at the end of the tiebreaker with my errors," Burdette said. "But it's the same thing. All in all, I didn't have the guts to finish it."
In the doubles match, Gilchrist and Gullickson didn't begin fully hitting their ground strokes until the second set.
"You could tell that they were warmed up from their singles match," Gullickson said. "Nadja and I just kind started off slow."
For Stanford, the day ended as well as Forood could've expected.
"It's probably one of the biggest days in our program history," Forood said. "It's very exciting, especially because no one's graduating, but it's quite an amazing day."
Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press