Jan. 14, 2013
ATHENS, Ga. --- As he begins his 25th season as the head coach of the Georgia men’s tennis team, Manuel Diaz sits down with Georgiadogs.com for a Q&A to preview the upcoming 2013 spring season.
Georgiadogs.com: So, with the fall complete and the spring just around the corner, how would you assess the team at this point?
Manuel Diaz: We’re still finding out, but I am really encouraged at this point. The guys seem like they’re in excellent shape for the most part. We had some guys stay in Athens over the holidays to practice, and two of our players (KU Singh and Casey Kay) went abroad to train in Singapore. Ben Wagland was able to go home to Australia and play some tournaments. I think for the most part I am just really pleased with the conscientiousness, and more than anything our guys are just really keen about starting the spring season. That’s really encouraging. I think we made some tremendous progress this fall individually, and now it’s a matter of coming together as a team. I’m confident that the personalities we have can do that. This is a close-knit group and we’re looking forward to getting going.
GD: Does it seem like there’s youthful enthusiasm with the group being so young?
MD: They’re like kids in a candy store. They’re excited to play alongside each other, for each other, and I think the closeness of the group is coming to light.
GD: What have you seen in terms of leadership from the upperclassmen?
MD: I’m encouraged. Hernus [Pieters] played his best tennis this fall, and seems more relaxed. That’s really benefited him. He’s always been a tenacious competitor, but he’s becoming more resourceful and more confident in his game. By playing more relaxed he’s seen improvement in his ground strokes and his creativity on the court, which the young players see. Nathan [Pasha] has always been a vocal guy and that’s a big help to our freshmen.
GD: How’s the makeup of this team after losing three starters from last season?
MD: We’re going to have to count on some young players, whether it’s freshmen, sophomores, even juniors. We have to get these new guys to step up and contribute and play together, and I’m confident that this will be a year of great growth for everyone. We’re capable as a team of doing very well.
GD: How do you feel about the No. 6 team ranking, three singles players in the top-20, and a top-5 doubles team?
MD: It’s always a good thing to be recognized like that. I try not to pay much attention to things like that early, though. I tell the guys it’s a great accomplishment, but most of their tennis is still ahead of them. They can go build on that now and know they’ll be challenged along the way. They have to stay hungry.
GD: What would you say to fans about this year’s team?
MD: It’s going to be a lot of fun watching these players compete. We have a group of guys that are just great competitors. They’re colorful. The level of competition we have here, plus our home schedule this year is just tremendous. There are going to be some great matches. It’ll be fun.