Riffice, Navarro Win NCAA Individual Titles

Emma Navarro and Sam Riffice (photo: @usta/Twitter)

ORLANDO, FLA./WASHINGTON, May 30, 2021 (by Michael Dickens)

A week after leading the University of Florida to its first NCAA team title, junior captain Sam Riffice won an individual title, too.

At the NCAA Championships at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla., which concluded with individual finals in men’s and women’s singles and doubles on Friday, the sixth-seeded Riffice defeated Daniel Rodrigues of the University of South Carolina, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

In the women’s singles final, University of Virginia freshman Emma Navarro beat defending NCAA champion Estela Perez-Somarriba of the University of Miami, 6-3, 6-1.

The men’s doubles title was won by University of Tennessee Aussie duo Adam Walton and Pat Harper, who defeated the English pair of Tad Maclean and Finn Murgett of Auburn University,7-6 (5), 2-6, 13-11.

The University of North Carolina’s Makenna Jones and Elizabeth Scotty defeated Katie Collins and Lulu Sun of the University of Texas, 7-6, 4-6, 10-8, to win the women’s doubles title.

After reaching the men’s final by knocking out No. 1 seed Liam Draxl of the University of Kentucky in the semifinals, 7-6 (5), 2-6, 6-1, Riffice saved seven of 10 break points he faced en route to his title victory against the No. 2 seed Rodrigues. He became the third University of Florida men’s player to win the NCAA singles title and eighth player since 2000 to win both an NCAA team and individual title in the same year.

Riffice called contributing to Florida’s team championship and winning the individual title “the two greatest moments” of his young tennis life.

Meanwhile, in the women’s final, after No. 3 seed Navarro lost the first two games, she won 12 of the next 14 against No. 2 seed Perez-Somarriba to avenge her only defeat this season.

“I set out today to be super aggressive and dictate with my forehand and I think I was able to do that,” said Navarro, who finished her freshman year 19-1, during a post-match news conference. “I finished a lot of points in my backhand. A big thing for me is, as my coach and I say, getting outside the box – so using my backhand down the line and using drop shots and coming to the net, that sort of thing that I don’t do as naturally. I set out to do a lot of that today and I think that worked well.”

Navarro became the first freshman to the NCAA singles title since 2009 and is the eighth overall. She’s the third University of Virginia tennis player to win an NCAA singles title, joining Danielle Collins (2014, 2016) and Thai-Son Kwiatkowski (2017).