Courtesy: Georgia Sports Communications
2007 Men's Tennis NCAA Team Championship
The University of Georgia men's tennis team completed its dream season by winning the program's fifth NCAA Team Championship on its home courts in Athens in May. The national crown was the final piece to a perfect puzzle as the squad captured every possible team title during its undefeated run, which also included the ITA Team Indoor National Championship, the SEC Regular-Season championship and the SEC Tournament crown.
Georgia was so dominant as a team, that, for the first time in team history, the Bulldogs never allowed an opponent more than two points in a match. Even then, UGA opposition gained two points only twice, while suffering a total of 22 shutouts.
The Bulldogs took on all manner of challengers in 2007 but none could match wits with Georgia. Of its 32 total wins, 18 of those came against Top 25-ranked opponents, including nine in the Top 10.
2006-07 was also a year lush with individual accomplishments. Heading into the campaign, Georgia saw the return of half of the starting lineup that reached the finals at Stanford in 2006, including seniors John Isner and Matic Omerzel and junior Luis Flores. With the graduation of the other three starters, head coach Manuel Diaz looked to three newcomers to fill their spots in the lineup: junior transfer (Texas) Travis Helgeson and freshmen Jamie Hunt and Nate Schnugg. The six starters did not disappoint as they all went on to earn All-SEC recognition while Isner, Flores and Helgeson earned All-America honors.
Isner blossomed in to one of the most decorated Bulldogs in history, becoming the seventh UGA player to be named a four-time All-American and the eighth to garner All-SEC honors all four years of his career. He also became the all-time winningest player in both singles and doubles in team history. Additionally, he extended his dual-match winning streak to 46 matches before a three-set loss at Florida, a run that spanned three seasons, lasting from April 8, 2005 until March 11, 2007. Isner went on to reach the finals of the NCAA Singles Championship tournament and finish with a No. 2 ITA ranking for the second straight year. Isner was named the SEC Player of the Year for the second consecutive season, becoming the first player ever to earn the honor twice, and after the NCAA Championships was voted as the ITA Senior Player of the Year for his efforts throughout the season.
Entering the NCAA Doubles championship tournament as the No. 1-seeded team, Isner and Flores were ultimately upset in the quarterfinals. However, they were so far ahead of the rest of the nation on the point scales, they still finished the year as the nation's No. 1-ranked tandem.
In the fall season, Isner and Flores won two collegiate grand slam doubles titles: the ITA All-American Doubles Championships and the ITA National Indoor Doubles Championships. Isner also made the finals of the All-American Singles Championships but failed to defend his title. The Isner-Flores combination began the year with a win at the Southern Intercollegiate Championships in September in Athens, kicking off an unbeaten streak that lasted until January. The partners then met in the finals of the singles draw at that tournament also.
Omerzel finished his collegiate tennis career with a flourish as well. He was named the MVP of the SEC Tournament and the Most Outstanding Player at the NCAA Championships, as he clinched Georgia's national title-winning match.
Another Bulldog finding success in the fall season was senior Ricardo Gonzalez, who captured the Georgia Tech Invitational doubles title for the second straight year, this time teaming with Hunt. He had previously won both the singles and doubles titles at that event. Helgeson also performed well in the fall, reaching the finals of the Southeast Regional Championships in singles and advancing to the quarterfinals of the doubles draw at that event with Omerzel.
Finally, for his second straight undefeated regular-season campaign, Diaz earned his fifth SEC Coach of the Year selection, sharing the 2007 honor with Billy Pate of Alabama.
In the final ITA rankings, all six Bulldog starters finished with a national ranking for the first time: Flores joined Isner in the Top 10, finishing at No. 9. Helgeson was not far behind with a final rank of No. 11, while Omerzel ranked 37th. Schnugg came in at No. 98 and Hunt rounded out the group at No. 104.