Alison Smalling / Sports Information Director
Senior Jaime Sanchez-Canamares Rios and junior Deni Zmak teamed up to capture the 2014 USTA/ITA NAIA doubles national title at the Palmetto Tennis Center on Friday. The win was the 10th national title for the Embry-Riddle men’s tennis program and marked the third time in four season that the Eagles have been crowned doubles champions.
The match was the second of the day for the Eagle duo who bested Northwestern Ohio’s Thommy Johansson and Daniel Rueda 6-3, 7-6 (4) in the semifinals on Friday afternoon to advance to the Friday evening title match.
The three-set victory did not come easily for the top-seeded tandem that became doubles partners just a few weeks ago. The Eagles’ opponent in the championship was the Westmont pair of Joshua Barnard and Carl-Phillip Lindquist who registered a three-set upset of the second-seeded team to earn a spot in the title match.
“It wasn’t our best performance,” Zmak said of he and his teammate who dropped the first set 7-5. “We were down almost the entire match.”
“We came into the match as the favorite and they played like they had nothing to lose,” Sanchez-Canamares added.
The Westmont team appeared to have the match in hand as they took a 5-4 lead in the second and served for the match. But Zmak and Sanchez-Canamares showed that they should never be counted out as they surged back to win three straight games to take the set 7-5 and force a third frame.
“All the momentum was on our side then,” Zmak recalled. “We started playing a little better and then we just went for it.”
The truth of that statement was evident in the final set as the Eagles rolled to a 6-1 victory and the NAIA national doubles title.
Zmak, who also took home the doubles crown in partnership with Simon Felix in 2013, made program history as he became the first in ERAU men’s tennis history to win two national doubles titles.
The top seed in the singles bracket, Zmak will also play for a national singles title on Saturday. He advanced to the championship match when his semifinal opponent Edberg Espinoza of Lindsey Wilson retired with an injury after falling behind 3-1. Zmak will take the court at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday against No. 2 Jordan Cox of Georgia Gwinnett.