©Colette Lewis 2011--
Palo Alto, CA--
Georgia's head coach Manny Diaz wasn't aware that his team had lost four first sets against Duke in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Men's Team Championships on a clear and cool Thursday morning at Taube Tennis Center.
"I didn't even realize that, to be honest with you," Diaz said after the No. 6 Bulldogs had defeated No. 11 Duke 4-1. "I realized who lost, but I didn't put together that it was four. I didn't really panic, because we were fighting well and I thought we could come back in each one of those."
Javier Garrapiz and Hernus Pieters had clinched the doubles point for Georgia at No. 1 over Henrique Cunha and Reid Carleton, breaking Carleton serving at 7- 8after missing out on three match points at 6-7 with Cunha serving.
That momentum didn't carry over to singles however, and Duke's Chris Mengel at No. 3, Luke Marchese at No. 6, Reid Carleton at No. 2 and Torsten Wietoska at No. 5 gave the Blue Devils fans, including the women's team, cause for optimism. Drake Bernstein at No. 4 and Wil Spencer at No. 1 had taken first sets for Georgia, but the Bulldogs needed someone to turn it around. It turned out to be Pieters at No. 6, who wasn't even sure he was going to be able to play when he got up this morning.
"He was reading a book, went to get up and thought he strained his back," Diaz said. "He didn't go to the banquet last night, could not move last night or this morning. We got him to the training room early this morning and his back loosened up as the match went along."
Duke had no such luck with their under-the-weather player, Cunha, who was suffering from food poisoning he'd contracted. Cunha called a trainer after dropping the first set to Spencer at No. 1, but he was unable to mount any threat in the second set. Mengel had tied the match for Duke, beating Sadio Doumbia 6-2, 6-4, but Bernstein beat Fred Saba 6-4, 6-4 and Spencer gave Georgia a 3-1 lead with a 6-4, 6-3 win.
By that time Pieters had taken a 5-1 lead in the third set against Luke Marchese, and the freshman from South Africa finished with a backhand volley winner to give Georgia the 4-1 win.
Although Diaz was happy with the composure his team showed, he wasn't entirely satisfied with their level of play.
"I don't want to say we did not play our best, because that would not sound right," Diaz said. "But we need to play better than we played today to have a chance against the top teams."
Georgia will play No. 3 Tennessee for the third time this season after the Vols overcame a stellar effort from Cal in the doubles point to claim a 4-2 win from the No. 14 seeded Bears.
After Tennessee's Tenny Sandgren and Rhyne Williams had cruised to an 8-1 win over Carlos Cueto and Pedro Zerbini on Court 2, the Bears evened it when Jonathan Dahan and Ben McLachlan took an 8-5 win over Matteo Fago and Edward Jones at No. 3. Tennessee's JP Smith and Boris Conkic, the top-ranked doubles team in the country were up a break on Nick Andrews and Christoffer Konigsfeldt but the Bears came back to make it 6-6, forced a tiebreaker, and played flawlessly in it to claim the point for Cal 9-8(4) in a 90-minute marathon.
"When I started to focus on Court 1, Andrews didn't miss a ball for the last four or five games," said Tennessee coach Sam Winterbotham. "They played great."
Winterbotham thought his team could come back, however.
"Our singles lineup gives us a chance to win all six," he said. "I'm not saying we'll win all six, but we have a team that doesn't have any holes, I don't feel. But when you lose the doubles point, you've got to win two-thirds of the matches. That's not what we wanted to have happen. But you've got to give Cal a great deal of credit. They won the point. I thought we won the singles."
Vols senior Smith led the way at No. 1, taking a 6-3, 6-1 decision from Zerbini to get Tennessee on the board, with Edward Jones at No. 6 and Boris Conkic at No. 4 also getting straight set victories for a 3-1 lead.
Tennessee had won three of the five first sets they took in tiebreakers, showing how close Cal was, but the Bears could claim only one more point, when McLachlan beat Fago 6-4, 3-6, 6-2 at No. 5. Williams put the 2010 NCAA finalists in Saturday's quarterfinal against Georgia with a 7-6(5), 6-3 win over Cueto at No. 2.
"We've played them twice this year and we've managed to win both times," said Winterbotham. "It's been a really competitive match every time, so we don't expect anything less."
No. 6 GEORGIA (23-5) 4
No. 11 DUKE (22-10) 1
Doubles (Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1)
1) No. 6 Garrapiz/Pieters (UGA) d. No. 7 Carleton/Cunha (DUKE) 9-7
2) Holland/Mengel (DUKE) d. No. 88 Doumbia/Taboada (UGA) 8-4
3) Bernstein/Spencer (UGA) d. Saba/Wietoska (DUKE) 8-5
Singles (Order of Finish: 4, 3, 1, 6)
1) No. 18 Will Spencer (UGA) d. No. 8 Henrique Cunha (DUKE) 6-4, 6-3
2) No. 32 Javier Garrapiz (UGA) vs. No. 13 Reid Carleton (DUKE) aban.
3) Chris Mengel (DUKE) d. No. 51 Sadio Doumbia (UGA) 6-2, 6-4
4) Drake Bernstein (UGA) d. Fred Saba (DUKE) 6-4, 6-4
5) Ignacio Taboada (UGA) vs. Torsten Wietoska (DUKE) aban.
6) Hernus Pieters (UGA) d. Luke Marchese (DUKE) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
#3 TENNESSEE (24-4) 4
#14 CALIFORNIA (14-8) 2
Doubles (Order of Finish: 2, 3, 1)
1) No. 23 Andrews/Konigsfeldt (CAL) d. No. 1 Conkic/Smith (TENN) 9-8 (4)
2) No. 72 Sandgren/Williams (TENN) d. Cueto/Zerbini (CAL) 8-1
3) Dahan/B. McLachlan (CAL) d. Fago/Jones (TENN) 8-5
Singles (Order of Finish: 1, 6, 4, 3)
1) No. 11 John-Patrick Smith (TENN) d. No. 20 Pedro Zerbini (CAL) 6-3, 6-1
2) No. 3 Rhyne Williams (TENN) d. No. 64 Carlos Cueto (CAL) 7-6 (5), 6-3
3) No. 45 Tennys Sandgren (TENN) vs. No. 96 Nick Andrews (CAL) aban.
4) Boris Conkic (TENN) vs. Christoffer Kongisfeldt (CAL) 6-2, 6-2
5) Ben McLachlan (CAL) d. No. 80 Matteo Fago (TENN) 6-4, 3-6, 6-2
6) Edward Jones (TENN) d. Bozhidar Katsarov (CAL) 7-6 (5), 6-0