Men's Tennis Returns To SEC Play Against Gamecocks, Gators
Eric Diaz


Eric Diaz
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March 13, 2014

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ATHENS, Ga. --- Riding the momentum of a 4-3 win over No. 1 Ohio State on Wednesday, the No. 16 Georgia men’s tennis team (8-5, 3-0) will step back into SEC play as it hits the road for a pair of matches against South Carolina and Florida.

Georgia will face off against the No. 48 Gamecocks (7-7, 0-2) on Friday at 5 p.m. in Columbia, before traveling to Gainesville for a Sunday showdown vs. the 17th-ranked Gators (6-5, 1-1) at 1 p.m. The Bulldogs are in the midst of a five-match winning streak and are currently undefeated at 3-0 in conference play.

Live scoring will be available for both matches on Georgiadogs.com.

LOOKING AT THE GAMECOCKS: South Carolina enters the weekend ranked No. 48 in the nation and with an overall record of 7-7, 0-2 in conference play. The Gamecocks are currently on a three-match losing streak including SEC setbacks to Texas A&M (4-1) and Florida (4-2).

South Carolina is led in singles by Andrew Schafer’s 19 wins, while Chip Cox (15), Tsvetan Mihov (13), and Thiago Pinheiro (10) are also in double figures. In doubles, the team of Mihov and Pinheiro lead the way at 15-9 overall and 9-4 in dual matches. In the rankings, Mihov currently stands at No. 80, while Schafer is No. 125. Two Gamecock doubles pairs are currently ranked - Cox and Kyle Koch at No. 39, and Cox and Mihov at No. 56.

Georgia is 34-6 all-time in the series, including a 5-2 win last season in Athens.            

LOOKING AT THE GATORS: Florida is currently ranked No. 17 in the nation - just one spot behind Georgia - with a record of 6-5 (1-1). The Gators are coming off the win over the Gamecocks last weekend, while they suffered a 4-2 loss to the Aggies in the conference opener on Feb. 28.

Statistically, the Gators have six players in double-digit wins in singles, including Florent Diep in the lead with an 18-12 record. Gordon Watson is 17-8 overall. In doubles, the team of Watson and Elliott Orkin comes in at 15-6.

Stephane Piro is the highest-ranked player for UF at No. 52, while Orkin is No. 82 this week. Spencer is No. 85, and Watson is No. 106. In doubles, Orkin and Watson are currently No. 11 in the nation, while Piro and Michael Alford are No. 14. Piro and Diep also cracked the latest poll at No. 54.

Georgia is 55-19 all-time vs. the Gators. The teams have already faced once this season - a 4-2 win for Florida at the ITA National Indoors against a short-handed Bulldog squad.

LAST TIME OUT: Hernus Pieters defeated Hunter Callahan in a second-set tiebreaker to lift No. 16 Georgia to a thrilling 4-3 victory over top-ranked Ohio State in a marathon match Wednesday night at the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Facility.

The five-and-a-half-hour match was moved indoors due to high winds, and ended with Georgia’s first win over a No. 1 ranked team since the Bulldogs defeated Virginia in the semifinals of the 2008 NCAA Championships. Georgia (8-5) extended its home winning streak to 21 matches, while handing Ohio State just its second loss of the season. The Buckeyes (17-2) were winners of the ITA National Indoor Tournament last month in Houston.

After going ahead 2-0, Georgia fell behind 3-2 with Nick Wood at No. 5 and Pieters at No. 6 still remaining on the courts. Wood lost his first set to Ralf Steinbach and led 4-3 in the second set when Pieters trailed Callahan, 6-3, in the first set tiebreaker. Pieters then stormed back to take the first set 7-6(6), and seconds later Wood broke for a 5-3 lead, swinging the momentum in Georgia’s favor.

Wood went on to cruise to a 5-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory to tie the match at 3-3. Pieters and 88th-ranked Callahan went to another tiebreaker in the second set, and the Georgia senior prevailed 7-6(6), 7-6(6) to give the Bulldogs their fifth straight win.

IN THE RANKINGS: The Georgia men’s tennis team dropped to No. 35 in the first edition of the computerized ITA poll released two weeks ago, then shot up to No. 16 in the March 4 edition following two straight 4-0 wins over Georgia Tech and Tennessee. Georgia remained at No. 16 in the March 11 poll.

The Bulldogs opened the season at No. 3 and dropped one spot to No. 4 on Feb. 4.

In the singles rankings, Austin Smith is No. 13, followed by Nathan Pasha at No. 25, Garrett Brasseaux at No. 79, and Ben Wagland at No. 87.

In doubles, Hernus Pieters and Ben Wagland are ranked No. 21.

The Bulldogs in 2014 returned the top five singles players from last year’s squad that reached the NCAA semifinals. UGA finished the 2013 season ranked third after the trip to the “Final Four.”

DIAZ APPROACHING ANOTHER MILESTONE: Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz - now in his 26th season at the helm - is nearing yet another career milestone. Having entered the season with 585 victories to his name, he now stands with 593 and is just seven shy of the 600-win plateau.

Diaz has the ninth-most wins in NCAA Division I men’s tennis history, and is second all-time on that list among SEC coaches behind only Bulldog legend Dan Magill, who won 706 matches in 33 seasons from 1955-88.

Only eight NCAA Division I men’s head coaches in history have won 600 matches in a career.

Diaz won his 500th match on March 15, 2010 against Vanderbilt, then snagged No. 550 in a 2012 dual match also against the Commodores.

ON DECK: The Bulldogs return home next weekend, set to take on Kentucky on Friday and Vanderbilt on Sunday. Both matches will be played outdoors at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, weather permitting. Admission is free.

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