©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.