Sadio Doumbia and Nathan Pasha in doubles.
April 17, 2012
ATHENS, Ga. --- The fourth-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team (20-2) is headed to the 2012 SEC Championships in search of its eighth tournament title, seeded second and guaranteed a place in the quarterfinals with a first-round bye.
Georgia - which closed the regular season last Saturday with a 7-0 sweep of Tennessee - will meet the winner of the Auburn-South Carolina first round match in Friday’s quarterfinal at 9 a.m. ET at the A.J. Pitts Tennis Centre in Starkville, Miss. Admission to all matches is free, while live scoring will be available courtesy of MSU on Georgiadogs.com. As long as the Bulldogs are playing, the Georgia Tennis Live Chat will also be running on Georgiadogs.com.
“We’re very excited,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “The SEC Tournament is right around the corner. I think we finished the regular season strong. In the post-season you’ve got to be careful – it’s ‘who’s next?’ and if you win you survive and advance, but lose you go home. We’ll be sure to be at our best on Friday in Starkville. We understand it’s a big challenge playing the winner of the Auburn-South Carolina match. Also to play at 8 in the morning (local time) is always a challenge. So, hopefully we’ll come out with a win, get a match under our belts and keep going.”
GEORGIA AT THE SEC TOURNAMENT: Georgia has won a total of 33 SEC championships to lead the league in that category, including seven via the tournament.
The Bulldogs last won the SEC Tournament in 2007, before going on to win the NCAA title later that spring in completing the “Triple Crown.”
In all, Georgia has won the tournament in 1991, 1993, 1995, 2001, 2004, 2006, and 2007 - all under the direction of head coach Manuel Diaz. Those seven titles since the inception of the tournament format in 1990 lead the league, as Florida is next with four titles. The Bulldogs have also appeared in the finals more than any other school, a total of 13 times in 22 tries.
Last season the Bulldogs reached the semifinals, where they fell by a 4-0 score to Kentucky.
THE 2012 FIELD: Regular season champion and undefeated Kentucky earned the No. 1 overall seed for the tournament, followed by Georgia, host Mississippi State, and Florida to round out the four teams receiving first round byes. Ole Miss (5), Tennessee (6), Auburn (7), LSU (8), Vanderbilt (9), South Carolina (10), Alabama (11), and Arkansas (12) round out the field of 12.
The Bulldogs will take on either the Tigers or the Gamecocks on Fri., April 20 quarterfinal action. UGA defeated both Auburn and South Carolina earlier this season, each by a 6-1 score and each coming on the road.
Georgia’s semifinal match would then be Saturday at noon, with the finals set for Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.
LAST TIME OUT: The fourth-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team closed its 2012 regular season with a bang last Saturday, capturing a 7-0 shutout over Eastern Division rival Tennessee at Barksdale Stadium in Knoxville to finish the slate at 20-2 (10-1) heading into this week’s SEC Championships.
The Bulldogs won the doubles point for the 17th time in 22 tries, before cruising winning four of six first sets and ultimately claiming victories on all six singles courts to record their seventh 7-0 shutout of 2012.
PASHA WINS FOURTH ROOKIE OF THE WEEK AWARD: Freshman Nathan Pasha on Monday secured his fourth SEC Freshman of the Week honor of the season.
Pasha has now won the award in back-to-back weeks in addition to taking the honors on March 28 and Feb. 22. The Atlanta native is riding a team-best nine-match winning streak in singles with an 18-1 dual match record and a 9-1 mark in conference play.
On Saturday vs. Tennessee in the regular-season finale, Pasha put up two more wins on the day to help the Bulldogs to the 7-0 shutout of their divisional rival, including a straight-set win over Taylor Patrick at six singles that got him off the court first for the sixth time in 2012. He then teamed with Sadio Doumbia for an 8-2 victory at No. 2 doubles, which at that point evened things at 1-1 before Georgia eventually went on to claim the doubles point.
IN THE RANKINGS: Georgia remained No. 4 in the ITA team rankings for the third straight week on April 10 - marking the fifth week in a row the Bulldogs are ranked inside the top-five.
Individually, Georgia has five players in the singles poll as well as five ranked doubles teams. Senior Wil Spencer continues to lead the way at No. 9 in the singles rankings, followed by Sadio Doumbia at No. 24, KU Singh at a career-high No. 28, Ignacio Taboada at No. 39, and Hernus Pieters at No. 52.
In doubles, Georgia’s team of Spencer and Garrett Brasseaux sits at No. 22 this week, followed by Doumbia and Taboada at No. 24, Hernus Pieters and Taboada at No. 43, Doumbia and Nathan Pasha at No. 52, and Doumbia and Pieters at No. 79.
SPENCER WINS 100TH SINGLES MATCH: Georgia senior captain Wil Spencer used a three-set win over Tennessee’s 42nd-ranked Mikelis Libietis om Saturday to secure the 100th singles victory of 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 100-46.
Fellow senior Ignacio Taboada is also getting close to the milestone at 95-35 for his career that included two seasons at the University of Miami and two at Georgia.
MIXING IT UP: After a 2010-11 season in which the Bulldog doubles lineups were solidifed early on, head coach Manuel Diaz has done some shuffling of his teams in 2011-12. So far in 2012 Diaz’s Bulldogs have gone with 22 different doubles team combinations out of a total of 66 possibilities.
ON DECK: The Bulldogs will return from the SEC Championships to learn their NCAA Tournament fate when the 64-team draw is announced on May 1 at 5 p.m. Georgia will likely host a first and second round regional before then hosting the Round of 16 in Athens beginning May 18.