TUSCALOOSA Top-seeded and No. 1-ranked Georgia eliminated No. 8-seed Alabama in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tennis Championships Friday night.
In a match that stretched over an eight-hour span because of rain and finished indoors, an experienced Georgia team proved to be too deep for Alabama to handle, even on its home court.
“Georgia came out and played exceptionally well,” Alabama head coach Billy Pate said. “I thought we played well, but Georgia’s demonstrated its experience and depth.”
Prior to the rain delay, Alabama showed fight during doubles and appeared to be ready to give the Bulldogs a run for its money. Despite falling down a break early at No. 3, Joseph Jung and Andrew Felsenthal rallied to even their match at 4-4. Almost simultaneously, Dan Buikema and Mathieu Thibaudeau pulled even at No. 2 doubles. Moments later play was suspended.
The rain forced play to be moved indoors, which then became an advantage for the Bulldogs, who won the 2006 National Indoor Championship this January. When the doubles competition finally resumed, No. 4-ranked John Isner and Antonio Ruiz gave UGA its first win of the day with an 8-3 win at No. 1 singles over the Tide’s Billy Mertz and Javier Bes. It marked just the second loss for Mertz and Bes in SEC-play this season and was just their fifth loss together on the season.
The Tide, however, remained locked in a battle to win the doubles point with the two remaining matches left on the court. Buikema and Thibaudeau tried to build on a 7-6 lead at No. 2 and Jung and Felsenthal, even at 7-7, attempted to gain the upper hand at No. 3. But UGA’s Luis Flores and Matic Omerzel seized momentum at No. 2 when they were able to break serve to take an 8-7 lead. The duo then served out for the match and clinched the doubles point for UGA, who claimed doubles for the 21st time in 22 matches this season.
“We were dead even with them at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles,” Pate said. “I give them credit because they elevated their game when they needed to.”
In singles, UGA’s line-up, which features four ranked singles players, recorded three quick victories to seal the win. Twentieth-ranked Luis Flores clinched for the Bulldogs with a 6-3, 6-4 win at No. 2 singles.
Alabama will now await to find out where it will play in the NCAA Championships. The Tide finished the season by winning five of its last six matches and is currently ranked No. 36 in the ITA rankings.
“We feel like we’ve put ourselves in position for an NCAA berth,” Pate said. “We have a number of quality wins this season and have played well down the stretch.”
NCAA selections will be made on May 3 on ESPN NEWS.
Tennis Match Results
Georgia vs Alabama
Apr 21, 2006 at Tuscaloosa, Ala.
#1 Georgia 4, #36 Alabama 0
1. #2 John Isner (GEO) def. #75 Joseph Jung (ALA) 6-1, 6-2
2. #20 Luis Flores (GEO) def. Javier Bes (ALA) 6-3, 6-4
3. Sammy Struyf (ALA) vs. Antonio Ruiz (GEO) 3-6, 5-4, unfinished
4. #65 Matic Omerzel (GEO) def. Mathieu Thibaudeau (ALA) 6-1, 6-4
5. Billy Mertz (ALA) vs. Colin Purcell (GEO) 2-0, unfinished
6. #59 Strahinja Bobusic (GEO) vs. Dan Buikema (ALA) no result
1. #4 John Isner/Antonio Ruiz (GEO) def. Billy Mertz/Javier Bes (ALA) 8-3
2. #39 Luis Flores/Matic Omerzel (GEO) def. Mathieu Thibaudeau/Dan Buikema (ALA) 9-7
3. Joseph Jung/Andrew Felsenthal (ALA) vs. #16 Strahinja Bobusic/Colin Purcell (GEO) 7-7, unfinished
Order of finish: Doubles (1,2); Singles (4,1,2)