March 19, 2014
ATHENS, Ga. --- The 10th-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team (10-5, 5-0) returns home for a pair of SEC matches this weekend at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, looking to build on the squad’s current seven-match winning streak and 21-match unbeaten streak at home. Georgia will host No. 14 Kentucky (12-4, 5-0) on Friday at 4:30 p.m., before taking on No. 33 Vanderbilt on Sunday at 1 p.m. The meeting with UK will pit the only two unbeaten teams in the conference against one another.
LAST TIME OUT: The Georgia men’s tennis team on Sunday completed a stretch of five matches in 10 days, going unbeaten in that time, including a win over No. 1 Ohio State as the Bulldogs improved to 10-5 overall and 5-0 in the SEC. Georgia’s latest SEC victories were a 4-1 decision over South Carolina on Friday and a 4-3 victory over No. 17 Florida on Sunday.
The SEC road sweep came after last Wednesday’s 4-3 win over the Buckeyes in Athens - a match that was forced indoor due to high winds, and marked the Bulldogs’ first win over a top-ranked squad since 2008. The Bulldogs have been paced by sophomore Austin Smith’s performances of late, as he has won seven consecutive singles matches and is also 11-1 in dual matches at No. 3 doubles with partner Eric Diaz.
LOOKING AT THE WILDCATS: Kentucky enters the weekend ranked No. 14 and sporting a record of 12-4 (5-0 SEC), with the Wildcats joining Georgia as the only two unbeaten teams in the league through the first three weeks of competition. UK is coming off a pair of home wins over the Mississippi schools last weekend - a 4-2 victory over Mississippi State and a 4-1 win over Ole Miss.
Kentucky is led by Tom Jomby’s 14 dual match singles wins, while Terry Lopez has 10. In doubles, the team of Ryuji Hirooka and Nils Ellefsen stand with 10 wins. Jomby is ranked No. 10 in the nation this week in singles, followed by Beck Pennington at No. 67.
Georgia is 42-9 all-time vs. the Wildcats, including three meetings last season: a 4-2 loss at National Indoors, a 4-2 win during the regular season in Lexington, and a 4-3 win in the SEC Tournament. The last time the two teams played in Athens, UK earned a tough 4-3 victory in a match that started outdoors but finished inside due to weather. Georgia then avenged that loss with a 4-1 victory over UK for the SEC championship.
LOOKING AT THE COMMODORES: Vanderbilt will play at Tennessee on Friday night before heading to Athens, but enters the weekend at No. 33 in the nation and with a record of 11-5 (2-3). The Commodores are coming off a 4-1 loss to Ole Miss and a 4-3 loss to Mississippi State. Following a three-match winning streak, Vandy has now lost three straight.
The Commodores are led by Gonzales Austin’s season record of 22-5, including a 1-0 clip in dual matches. Rhys Johnson has won 18 total matches, while Ryan Lipman is 4-0 in SEC play. In doubles, the No. 1-ranked team of Johnson and Lipman are 21-3 overall and 11-1 in dual match play. Austin is currently ranked No. 16 in the nation, while Lipman is No. 102 in singles.
Georgia is 49-4 all-time vs. Vanderbilt, including a 4-3 win last season in the ITA Kickoff and a 4-2 win during the regular season.
IN THE RANKINGS: The Georgia men’s tennis team dropped to No. 35 in the first edition of the computerized ITA poll released three 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, but got back to its rightful place in the top-10 on March 18, coming in at No. 10 after beating No. 1 Ohio State and No. 17 Florida.
The Bulldogs opened the season at No. 3 and dropped one spot to No. 4 on Feb. 4 prior to National Indoors.
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 595 and is just five 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 will travel to face Texas A&M next Friday night in College Station, and have an open date on Sunday. Georgia is home the following weekend against Arkansas and LSU.