March 7, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The sixth-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team (11-1) will play its first home SEC matches of the 2012 season when it welcomes Western Division opponents Mississippi State and Ole Miss to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex this weekend. Both squads are currently ranked inside the top 20 of the ITA poll at Nos. 12 and 16, respectively.
Georgia, which started off conference play with a pair of road victories last weekend, will take on the Bulldogs Friday at 2:30 p.m. and the Rebels Sunday at 1 p.m. in Athens.
Admission to all matches is free.
“We really felt a bit of a sense of relief [after the Florida match], which isn’t ideal,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “You’d think you’d feel better about a win like that, but I didn’t think we were playing as well as we’re capable, especially at the top of the lineup. We’re looking at this week to feel better about that, and the results will take care of themselves.”
“I know both of these teams are better than their rankings – they are both capable of being a top-10 team. We know it’ll come down to the wire and will take our very best. That’s what training is about this week. It’s a great challenge and will demand that the guys give their very best.”
LOOKING AT THE (OTHER) BULLDOGS: Georgia is 50-11 in the all-time series vs. the Bulldogs of the West, including last season’s 4-3 victory on the road in Starkville. Georgia is on a nine-match winning streak over Mississippi State dating back to 2005.
Mississippi State is off to a hot start in 2012, having won seven matches in a row - its longest streak since 1998 - before this Tuesday’s 4-3 heartbreaker vs. third-ranked Virginia. The team currently stands at 11-3 on the season.
At No. 12 as a team, the Bulldogs are led in the individual rankings by No. 1 singles player Artem Ilyushin at No. 27, sitting at 11-1 in dual match play. Behind him, Louis Cant is No. 37, Georgia Coupland No. 41, and Malte Stropp No. 75. In doubles, the team of Cant and Stropp is currently ranked 23rd.
The Bulldogs are coached by Per Nilsson in his fifth season. Nilsson is the reigning SEC Coach of the Year and ITA Southern Region Coach of the Year.
LOOKING AT THE REBELS: Georgia owns a 34-9 all-time record vs. Ole Miss, including last season’s 4-3 win over the Rebels on the road.
The Rebels started SEC play with wins over Auburn and Alabama and are currently 5-2, but will play third-ranked Virginia on Wednesday in Oxford.
Ole Miss is No. 16 in the rankings, while Marcel Thiemann is No. 46 in the singles poll to lead the way for the squad. He is followed by Jonas Lutjen at No. 48, William Kallberg at No. 49, Nik Scholtz at No. 55, and Chris Thiemann at No. 97. In doubles, the team of Lutjen and Johan Backstrom are No. 17, while the Thiemann twins are No. 18. Lutjen and Marcel Thiemann are ranked No. 58.
Lutjen and Backstrom are the team leaders in singles victories with 14 and 13, respectively, while the freshman Scholtz is 5-1 at the No. 1 position in 2012. The Thiemanns are currently 8-2 in doubles to lead the way there.
Ole Miss is coached by Billy Chadwick in his 29th season.
LAST TIME OUT: Georgia men’s tennis started SEC play this past weekend with a pair of road victories, improving to 11-1 (2-0) with a 6-1 win at South Carolina on Friday and Sunday’s 4-3 thriller over Florida in Gainesville.
On Friday Georgia started strong, sweeping the doubles point for the fourth time and second time in a row before posting five singles wins to lock up the victory.
On Sunday things were a bit tougher, as the Bulldogs also won doubles and added two singles wins to take a 3-0 lead before Florida rallied with three in a row to tie it. That left just Wil Spencer and Bob van Overbeek on court at No. 1, and the UGA senior rallied from down 5-1 in the third set to pull out the win and give the Bulldogs the hard-fought road win in one of the biggest comebacks in recent memory.
SPENCER NAMED SEC PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Following a comeback performance that saw him overcome a 5-1 third-set deficit to secure a road win for Georgia over Florida last Sunday, men’s tennis senior Wil Spencer has been named the Southeastern Conference Player of the Week, the league office announced Wednesday afternoon.
Third-ranked Spencer posted a perfect 4-0 record on the first weekend of SEC play, including one of the biggest singles wins of his career as he rallied to break three times in the third to defeat Bob van Overbeek at No. 1 and clinch Georgia’s 4-3 victory in Gainesville. The Bulldogs had taken a 3-0 lead in the team match before the Gators rallied to tie with three straight singles wins, leaving just Spencer and van Overbeek on court with the match on the line and the Gators just a game away.
Spencer also teamed with junior KU Singh for a pair of doubles wins on the weekend, while he also won his singles match vs. South Carolina on Friday night in Columbia. The Ponce de Leon, Fla., native is now just four wins shy of 100 for his career and is second on the team with 24 singles victories in 2011-12.
SPENCER’S RECORD WATCH: Georgia senior captain Wil Spencer sits just four singles wins shy of reaching 100 for his career - having played his first two seasons at Texas A&M and his final two at UGA. Spencer’s combined career record at the two institutions is 96-40.
IN THE RANKINGS: Georgia placed five players in the top-50 of the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) singles poll released last Tuesday, including senior Wil Spencer who remained at No. 3 in the country.
Georgia came in at No. 6 as a team in the first computerized edition of the rankings in 2012, behind Southern Cal, Ohio State, Virginia, UCLA, and Duke, and stayed there in the March 6 team poll. Rounding out the top-10 this week were Kentucky, Cal, Florida, and Stanford.
The Bulldogs have now been ranked inside the top-10 in 14 consecutive ITA polls dating back to March 29, 2011.
Georgia’s singles delegation in the top-50 includes Spencer (3), Sadio Doumbia up 10 spots to No. 11, KU Singh up 20 spots to No. 35, Ignacio Taboada at No. 43, and Hernus Pieters up 25 spots to No. 47.
In doubles, three Bulldog teams are ranked including No. 7 Spencer and Garrett Brasseaux, No. 12 Doumbia and Taboada, and No. 54 Doumbia and Pieters.
ON DECK: The Bulldogs are off next weekend before welcoming top-5 fixture Ohio State to the Dan Magill Tennis Complex for a midweek match on Wed., March 21 at 2:30 p.m. Like Georgia, the Buckeyes reached the semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Championships and the 2012 ITA National Indoor Tournament.