LAFAYETTE — Jordan Daigle and Nick Crystal will each see a familiar face across the net in Sunday’s championship finals of the Cajun Tennis Classic at Louisiana-Lafayette’s Cajun Courts.
In fact, they were almost teammates.
“I know Nick,” said LSU’s Daigle, who handled Georgia sophomore Paul Oosterbaan 6-2, 6-3 in one Saturday semifinal. “We took a recruiting trip to USC together. Seems like a nice guy.”
“Yeah, we were on the same trip,” said Southern Cal’s Crystal, the Classic’s No. 1 seed. “Then, when he was transferring from Virginia, I tried to get him to come to SC. But LSU stole him away.”
It was almost an all-Tigers final, but Crystal fought past LSU’s Justin Busch in their semifinal, 6-2, 7-6 (5). The result was tougher than the straight sets might indicate for the top seed.
“Easier said than done,” Crystal said with a smile. “We know each other well. I knew he would fight, and make it to a lot of balls. I focused on coming forward and ending points on my terms.
“He’s really fast and was able to get out of trouble. There were times when I became hesitant, and he took advantage.”
The match heated up in the second set. Crystal’s crosscourt groundstroke to the deep corner broke Butsch to 4-4, but the talented Tiger fought off love-30 starts to hold his next two serves — once with an ace, the second to force a tiebreaker.
Crystal broke open a tense breaker when he rushed the net to go up 5-3, and a too-deep Butsch service return got it to 6-3. Butsch held twice but Crystal closed the door.
Although tested, Crystal proclaimed himself eager for today’s noon battle.
“I’ll definitely be well-rested and ready to play,” he said.
Daigle, meanwhile, likes his performance so far.
“If you had told me before the weekend that I would be in the finals, I would have been pleased,” Daigle said. “Now I definitely want to close it out on the right note.”
The final is bound to be more challenging than Saturday’s stroll, in which Oosterbaan appeared unable to compete fully. His Friday quarterfinal was a three-setter and he has played doubles this weekend.
“I knew he would struggle physically, but not so soon,” Daigle said. “I kind of lost focus to see him limping and not going for balls.”
Daigle got two early breaks, then delivered an ace to hold to 5-2 in the first set. The match was already devoid of much emotion, unlike the Crystal-Butsch battle on the next court. As if there was any doubt, Daigle broke serve to start the second set and followed with a three-ace game on his serve.
He closed easily from there.
“I played all right,” said Daigle, who saw no need to apologize for a quiet, easy win. “With the heat and humidity we have, you want to save energy. The least amount of time you need for matches, the better.”
This year’s Classic is notable for the UL-Lafayette doubles team of William Huyton and freshman Arthur Libaud advancing to Saturday’s action, where they lost to Vinod Gowda and Grey Hamilton of Ole Miss, 5-7, 6-4, 7-6.’
UM’s Stefan Lindmark and Filip Kraijevic faced LSU’s Butsch and Simon Freund in the other semifinal, with the Rebels prevailing 6-2, 6-4.
The doubles final follows the Daigle-Crystal matchup Sunday.