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Monday, May 22, 2006

Georgia Keeps Perfect Season Intact with Dramatic Win Over Baylor

©Colette Lewis 2006
Palo Alto CA--

Matic Omerzel had the weight of Georgia's perfect season on his shoulders Monday evening at the Taube Tennis Center. Baylor and Georgia were tied at 3 matches each before Omerzel and Will Ward had completed a set and a half of their contest at No. 4, each player well aware of the stakes.

Ward was playing under a different kind of pressure, knowing that any overrule of one of his line calls would cost him the match. In the first set, the freshman from New Zealand was overruled twice. Leading 3-1 in the tiebreak, Ward thought an Omerzel serve was out, and when he was overruled, under college rules, he lost a point. Arguing with the umpire brought him a code violation that cost him the game and Georgia had taken the first set. Another overrule or conduct violation would result in his being defaulted.

Darkness began to descend as the crowds made their way to court 4, and every point was fraught with the pressure of the moment. The Stanford band could be heard practicing across the street, but often the hundreds gathered were totally silent, anticipating greater drama. When the second set also went to a tiebreak, Ward jumped out to a 4-2 lead but couldn't hold it and Omerzel had his first match point with Ward serving at 5-6. A wide forehand cost him that chance and it would be nine games until he got another chance, as Ward served an ace leading 8-7 to send the match to an appropriate third set.

"I was a little bit nervous in the second set, in the breaker," admitted Omerzel, a junior from Slovenia. "but the third set, I was up a break serving, and feeling pretty confident on my serve. I tried to relax myself as much as possible, and I think I did a pretty good job."

Omerzel got the break in a marathon fourth game, and it was all he needed. Although at 5-3 serving for the match, he again steered a forehand wide in his first chance to end it then, needing one more ad to secure the win for Georgia.

"Omie's been unbelievable for us," said Georgia head coach Manny Diaz. "Coming into the tournament he was having fun again, and I felt he would have a great tournament."

With senior Strahinja Bobusic's injury keeping him out of the lineup, Georgia has relied on its depth, and Omerzel has clinched two of their three wins here in California.

The Bulldogs will meet second seeded Pepperdine Tuesday evening for the title; Earlier in the day, the Waves defeated third seed Texas 4-1 to set up a rematch of the National Indoor Team Championships finals in February, won by Georgia 4-0.

Pepperdine coach Adam Steinberg was not discouraged when asked about the likely matchup with Georgia, a meeting that Baylor came very close to preventing.

"We're a different team than we were then," he said. "And outdoors it's a different game. Getting to the finals is not enough, we want the title."

For complete results, visit Stanford's website.


Austin said...

I was wondering how serious Bobusics' wrist injury is. Is he out for the finals, or will he at least try to play doubles?...Also, there's no audio on the courts so you can't hear the crowd or what anyone says, but I couldn't believe the umpire would give a code violation in a tiebreaker in a close match in the Final Four. Did Ward say something really bad to the umpire to make him do that, because he didn't slam his racquet and throw his hat to the ground until after he got the code violation. I thought that was just absolutely rediculous to make that call in that situation, but like I said I couldn't hear what he said to the umpire. Do you know what he said? Because you could see Omerzel running to the bench after the ruling before Ward slammed his hat and racquet. I just really hope it was indeed warranted, because if Baylor would have taken that breaker UGA might be going home instead of playing tomorrow.

Colette Lewis said...

My understanding is that Bobusic will not play today at all.

I was not watching that tiebreak and my account is second-hand. I hope to learn more about the incident today. Neither coach would address the issue in the press conference. Knoll gave a terse "no comment" and Diaz said he wasn't on court at the time. Diaz did say that he thought Ward handled himself very well in that difficult situation from what he observed in the second and third sets

AndrewDemasson said...

It was an excellent match and a damn good effort by Ward as I gather , during his (other) marathon match against Stanford, he had to take two bags of intravenous fluid. To come back and play to such a high standard certainly deserves credit.

Austin said...

That sucks for Bobusic because he's a senior captain.