May 24, 2017
By Joanne Norell
ATHENS, Ga. — For Josh Hagar, the first round of the NCAA Division I Men’s Singles Championship had all the drama fitting of a postseason tilt, even without the three weather delays that extended his match against Northwestern’s Konrad Zieba at the Dan Magill Tennis Center at the University of Georgia.
The Irish veteran showed his signature resolve as the match stretched to three sets, coming away with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3) come-from-behind victory in his first individual NCAA appearance.
After falling behind 3-0 to begin the match, the 51st-ranked Hagar won the next two games to return the set to serve, eventually tying it at 3-all and 4-all. No. 67 Zieba held serve next to go up 5-4, and then broke Hagar on four straight points to take the opening set.
The pair traded breaks during the first four games of the second set before Zieba held serve to make it 3-2 in his favor. Hagar held, too, then broke Zieba again to take a 4-3 lead. He went up 5-3 on his next serve, and forced the decisive third set with another break to win the second, 6-3.
Hagar fell behind 2-0 to start the third, but won the next two to tie it before the match was delayed by lightning for 50 minutes. Once play resumed, Hagar and Zieba traded holds before the Wildcat challenger picked up a break to take a 4-3 lead. Hagar answered, however, breaking back and then holding to go up 5-4 before rain halted the contest once again.
The match see-sawed back in Zieba’s favor when play picked up 10 minutes later as he responded with two straight wins to go up 6-5 with the chance to serve out the match. The turning point for Hagar came at 15-all in that game — after another 10-minute rain delay — when Zieba’s out call of a Hagar shot was overturned and the Irish senior took a 30-15 lead. He then won two of the next three points to force the tiebreaker.
From there, Hagar rolled. The Austin, Texas, product went up 5-0 in the breaker before allowing a point and then led 6-1. Zieba picked up two more points before Hagar closed out the win at 7-3.
"The first round of any tournament is tough, especially in an event like this where the competition is so good," Hagar said. "I can take confidence heading into my next round after a hard-fought match like this one where I was able to successfully overcome adversity like the three weather delays and being down a break twice in the third. It was a gritty win and I can focus on building from there and playing well in the next match."
Hagar will face fourth-ranked and second-seeded Nuno Borges of Mississippi State in at 10 a.m. ET in Thursday’s Round of 32. Borges defeated No. 53 Adam Moundir of Old Dominion in the first round, 6-3, 7-5. Hagar fell to Borges in three sets earlier this season in the consolation quarterfinal of the ITA All-American Championships.
2017 NCAA Division I Men’s Singles Championship
Dan Magill Tennis Center
Round of 64
No. 51 Josh Hagar (ND) def. No. 67 Konrad Zieba (NU), 4-6, 6-3, 7-6(3)
Round of 32
No. 51 Josh Hagar (ND) vs. No. 4 Nuno Borges (Miss. St.), Time TBD
Joanne Norell, athletics communications assistant director at the University of Notre Dame, has been part of the Fighting Irish athletics communications team since 2014 and coordinates communications efforts for the Notre Dame women's soccer, men's tennis, women's tennis and fencing programs. Norell is a 2011 graduate of Purdue University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in mass communication, and earned her master's degree in sports industry management from Georgetown University in 2013.