A midweek clash of tennis titleholders saw a former Buckeye get international exposure playing in all-white instead of scarlet and gray.
The gentlemen’s singles draw of the Wimbledon Championships produced a second-round matchup between Ohio State product Blaz Rola and the Grand Slam tournament’s defending champion, Great Britain’s Andy Murray.
Murray won the match, 6-1, 6-1, 6-0, Wednesday morning.
Rola, who became OSU’s first-ever NCAA singles champion in 2013, has since moved on to the professional circuit and faced the third-seeded Murray at the All England Club in London.
Rola, representing his native Slovenia, is currently ranked No. 92 worldwide in the ATP Rankings and competing in his first Wimbledon tournament. He took on the fifth-ranked player in Murray, who looks to continue the defense of his 2013 Wimbledon title. He was the first British champion since Fred Perry won it all in 1936.
No. 80 Pablo Andujar of Spain fell to Rola in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1, 6-4, in the first round Monday, while Murray dispatched No. 105 David Goffin of Belgium, 6-1, 6-4, 7-5, the same day.
Rola said in an OSU press release Monday that his “motivation was off the charts” upon seeing the draw that gave him a chance to play against Murray.
“It feels great to have this opportunity. I don’t think an up-and-coming tennis player could have asked for a better matchup. I’m facing probably the greatest sportsman in Britain in one of the greatest venues,” Rola said.
OSU men’s tennis coach Ty Tucker had good things to say about his former star player.
“It’s great he has been able to accomplish his goals this year, reaching the Top 100 and play in Grand Slams,” Tucker said in the press release. “Sooner or later, Blaz Rola will be a guy that makes the Round of 16 at a Grand Slam tournament.”
Rola had 35 winners in his match against Andujar and managed to snag six break points en route to victory. Rola also won 80 percent of his first-serve points and 92 percent of points in which he came to the net.
Murray, no stranger to the big stage, is a disciplined player who commits very few unforced errors — he had only 10 against Goffin. The Belgian outplayed Murray at the net as he won 22 of 34 net points while Murray won nine of 15.
To succeed Wednesday, Rola may have needed to focus on making Murray move in so that he can work on beating him from the baseline with strong groundstrokes and placement.
Continuing to create break opportunities also figured to be key for Rola in gaining a foothold in this tournament. But defense could have presented chances for him, too, as Murray has only won 41 percent and 31 percent of return points in his two previous matches, respectively.
In addition to his collegiate singles accolades, Rola also enjoyed a successful doubles career at OSU.
Rola and his partner, Chase Buchanan, accomplished an unprecedented sweep of the three major college tennis tournaments during the 2011 to 2012 season when they won an NCAA title to go alongside their wins at both the ITA All-American Championships and the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships.
However, despite having risen to an ATP ranking of No. 222 as a pro doubles player, Rola entered only the men’s singles event at Wimbledon.