May 22, 2014
By Alex Resnak
Grady Sports Media
ATHENS-----She pumped her fist high in the air and hurried over to shake the hand of her opponent. University of Georgia sophomore Silvia Garcia had just won her first-ever singles match in the NCAA women’s tournament – on her home court and with her mother, far from home, in the stands.
“She has never been here before but she loves seeing me play in this type of an environment,” the Madrid, Spain, native said of her mother, Begoña Jimenez, after defeating Northwestern’s Belinda Niu 6-2,6-2 in the first round Wednesday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
Garcia’s mother will have plenty more tennis to see Thursday. Garcia will play Taylor Davidson of Stanford in singles at 10 a.m. Then, at 3 p.m., Garcia and UGA teammate Kate Fuller will take on the Miami team of Monique Albuquerque and Clementina Riobueno in doubles.
Garcia (36-4), a first-team All-SEC and All-American selection, enters the second round having won her last nine singles matches. During this stretch, she has garnered the No. 15 national singles ranking.
As dangerous as she is in singles, Garcia plays just as competitively during doubles competition, where she and Fuller finished the season with a 27-4 record to reach No. 19 in the national rankings. They have won 14 consecutive doubles matches heading into tournament play.
Expectations might have been clouded for Garcia following the early exit of the No. 1-ranked UGA women in the team tournament, but she says she still feels very confident, despite making no major changes to her game.
“This tournament doesn’t have as much pressure as the team tournament,” Garcia said of the singles and doubles championships. “In the team tournament, you feel pressure to go out and win for the other girls on the team, but in individuals, you go out, play for yourself and enjoy it.”
She did not qualify for the singles tournament her freshman year, so this is Garcia’s first solo appearance on the national stage. However, she said she does not think that will have an effect on her game.
The location of the tournament eases some of the pressure. Garcia is able to play on courts with which she is familiar, get ready in her normal locker room and go about her normal life without having to make the kind of changes that a player coming from across the country would.
She said that playing in Athens gives her a number of advantages, but she thinks the biggest advantage is the home crowd.
“You never get to play in front of your home crowd for a national tournament,” Garcia said. “No other players in the country have all their fans here, and we have the best fans in the country, so it is a big advantage.”
Resnak is a student in Grady Sports Media, a program at UGA's Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication.