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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Georgia Survives UCLA to Face Virginia in Semifinals

©Colette Lewis 2007--
Athens, GA--

There are 4-0 matches and then there are 4-0 matches. The top-seeded Georgia Bulldogs and their fans can tell you that their quarterfinal win over No. 9 seed UCLA by that score was a dogfight. Just ask John Isner, who needed ten match points before he could put away Ben Kohlloeffel at No. 1 in the match that clinched it for Georgia.

Ten minutes before it was all over, around 10:15 p.m. on a crisp and clear evening in Athens, there was no predicting how it would end. Georgia had won the doubles point with 8-5 wins at No. 3 and No. 2, but the Bulldogs' second point was a long time coming. Although they were up a set in three matches at Nos. 1, 4 and 6, there was a lot of work to be done, and UCLA wasn't going to go quietly. Every match was close, every point contested and it wasn't until Matic Omerzel at No. 4 and Jamie Hunt at No. 6 closed out very tough second sets to give the Bulldogs their second and third points, did the crowd of 3,195 begin to believe they might get home before midnight.

The Isner - Kohlloeffel match typified the razor-thin difference between a win and a loss, as the top-ranked Isner and the fourth-ranked Kohlloeffel traded big serves, touch volleys, and precision passing shots in equal measure all evening. The first set was on serve until 5-6, when Kohlloeffel went down 0-40, saved two set points but not the third and gave Isner the luxury of the first set. The second set was another excellent display of top-level tennis, but again the Bruin left-hander was serving from behind, and at 4-5, once again got down love-40. Isner then urged the crowd to rise from their seats, and they did so, but found they had to to sit down again, as Kohlloeffel came all the way back from that brink, saving four match points and pulling even a 5-5. At 5-6 Kohlloeffel again stared at love-40 and again survived it, saving four more match points to force a tiebreak.

But in the tiebreak, Isner, who had returned well all night, continued to pressure Kohlloeffel, passing agressively and forcing errors to take a 6-1 lead. With two serves, even those in the crowd counting the missed opportunities thought Isner was a sure bet to end it, but a missed volley made them wait one more point, when a service winner finally ended UCLA's valiant bid for the upset.

Any of the Georgia fans who arrived for their team's 6 p.m. match got a good look at the Bulldogs' opponent in the semifinals, as No. 4 Virginia was finishing off No. 12 USC 4-1. USC had match points at No. 1 doubles, but the Cavaliers' No. 1 team of Somdev Devvarmann and Treat Huey prevailed 9-8 (6) to take the point, and then carried that momentum on to their singles matches. Devvarmann took out Jamil Al-Agba at No. 1 6-1, 6-2 and Huey rolled over Dejan Cvetkovic at No. 2. 6-3, 6-1. USC got their point from No. 4 Robert Farah's 6-1, 6-4 victory over Marko Miklo, but Dominic Inglot at No. 3 finished it for the Cavaliers with a 7-6 (5) 6-3 win over Kaes Van't Hof.

Virginia will now hope to avenge their 4-2 loss to Georgia in the semifinals of the ITA Team Indoor in February, a match in which they were up a set in five of the six singles matches but were unable to close out the Bulldogs, who won the title over Ohio State. The semifinals will take place on Monday.

For complete results and scores, see georgiadogs.com.


Anonymous said...

Georgia sure does get outstanding crowds, not only for the home teams but also for the other teams as well! Great support for a great NCAA tournament!