By David Perez
It was a historic day for Stanford women’s tennis at the NCAA Tennis Championships, as an all-Cardinal final in the singles draw was followed by a doubles title just hours later. Sophomore Nicole Gibbs defeated junior teammate Mallory Burdette for the individual championship before the two joined forces to take the doubles crown 6-2, 6-4.
Gibbs became only the third Stanford player to win both the singles and doubles titles in the same year at the NCAA Championships. Monday’s win at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., made Gibbs the 15th Stanford woman to win the collegiate singles championship and the first since Amber Liu in 2004.
Gibbs defeated Burdette, 2-6, 7-6 (5), 6-3 in a mentally grueling match in which she was once a set and three games behind. Gibbs came back to force a second set tiebreak, where she fell behind 5-2 and once again found herself on the brink of elimination.
In the first set, Burdette was the more assertive player, as she came to net successfully and took control of the match. Ahead 4-1 in the second set, she looked poised to run away with the trophy. Burdette had not lost more than three games in a set in the entire tournament, and she appeared set on continuing that dominant streak.
“I had kind of resigned myself to losing to someone who was playing by far the best tennis in all of college tennis,” Gibbs said. “At that point, I was just trying anything possible to stay in points.”
Gibbs’ persistence paid off. She won three straight games as Burdette began making unforced errors and double faulted on a crucial point. The set evened out at 4-4, and after trading breaks they went into a tiebreak.
Burdette again looked poised to win the match, needing just two points to clinch after jumping out to a 5-2 lead. But Gibbs hung on to win five straight points and take the set. At that point, all of the momentum and confidence belonged to the sophomore, and she got an early break on her way to a 6-3 third-set win.
The teammates would later share the joy of winning a championship together, but that would have to wait. As Gibbs stood on her side looking at the sky with a smile, Burdette sat down on her side of the court and stared off in disbelief.
Head coach Lele Forood summed up how it must have felt for her top two players.
“It’s difficult. It’s even difficult for the winner because they are really excited, but also they feel bad for their teammate,” she said.
Gibbs and Burdette gave each other time apart to soak up the emotions from the match, but there was more work to be done.
“I knew there was no way I was going to let that singles match get in the way of us performing the way I thought we could in doubles,” Burdette said.
Burdette eventually found Gibbs to tell her how proud she was and how excited she was for doubles.
“I told her congratulations, and I was like ‘You can come inside. I’m fine. I’m not going to bite. You can come inside and sit and hang out until we go on the doubles court,’” Burdette said.
Gibbs certainly appreciated the gesture, and their hard-fought battle in singles only seemed to help their play on the doubles court.
“She was such a professional and such a great teammate…We were as close as teammates as we have ever been playing for the championship match in doubles,” Gibbs said.
Just over an hour later, the two paired up on the same side of the court to win the doubles trophy. Gibbs and Burdette defeated Georgia’s Nadja Gilchrist and Chelsey Gullickson 6-2, 6-4.
It was the second NCAA doubles championship in a row for Burdette and the first for Gibbs after entering this year’s doubles draw as the No. 2 seed. Stanford has now won three straight NCAA doubles titles and 15 overall.
“We played really well, super solid, and I couldn’t be more proud,” Burdette said.