Atlanta, Ga. - North Carolina Wesleyan's Robert Kjellberg has become the first Battling Bishop in men's tennis history to win a regional championship in singles play, doing so this weekend at the Southeast Fall Regional Tournament hosted by Emory University. By virtue of his championship win, Kjellberg advances to the National Small College Championships held in Mobile, Ala. October 11-14.
Kjellberg, the top singles seed in the tourney, cruised to the semifinals with four straight-set wins that saw him surrender just eight total games. In the semis, Kjellberg recorded yet another straight-set victory over Emory's Eric Halpern (6-2, 7-5) to set up a championship match versus Alex Ruderman, also of Emory.
In the title match, Kjellberg dropped the opening set 6-1 and found himself down 5-2 in the second. The junior from Vetlanda, Sweden, however, reeled off wins in nine straight games to not only take the set, but to go up 4-0 in the third.
Also competing in singles play was senior Artsiom Prostak, who picked up a three-set victory over Oglethorpe's C.J. Antonio before falling to Nicholas Szczurek of Emory.
Kjellberg and Prostak went on to make a semifinal run in doubles play. Seeded third overall, the Bishop duo turned in 8-1, 8-4 and 8-6 wins in the first three rounds before falling to eventual champion Isaacs/Szczurek of Emory, 9-8 (7-1).
Said Kjellberg, "I'm so happy to have won the singles title at Emory and make a good run with Artsiom in doubles. I feel like my preparation for this tournament over the past month really paid off, but there is still more work to be done and I know can improve on a lot of things."
Prostak commented, "Rob and I had a great time, and I feel like both my performances in singles and doubles are something to build on going into the spring"
Kjellberg and his fellow singles and doubles winners at each divisional level will now compete to become the overall "Super Bowl" champion at the National Small College Championships. The "Super Bowl" champions earn wild cards into the USTA/ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships with the opportunity to win the culminating event held at the USTA-Billie Jean King National Tennis Center.
"Rob showed off his immense talent and dominated his opponents to get to the semifinals," said NCWC head coach Worth Richardson. "His wins in the semis and finals, however, were a result of his mental toughness and sheer love of competing."
Richardson continued, "Rob's performances on Sunday were emblematic of what it takes to be a champion. He simply found a way to win against a very tough opponent. I look forward to him competing that well in Mobile."