UGA Men’s Tennis: Georgia Upsets 4th-Seeded Southern Cal
May 18, 2017
ATHENS, Ga. — With the Georgia men’s tennis team trailing 3-2, Jan Zielinski and Wayne Montgomery won deciding third sets to deliver an upset of 4th-seeded Southern California Thursday evening in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Championships.
It was a back and forth match, as the Bulldogs (21-7) lost the doubles point and the two teams then traded singles decisions until Montgomery clinched the match at the second court. The 13th-seeded Bulldogs will now face the No. 5 seed, UCLA, in the quarterfinals on Saturday at 4 p.m. The Trojans finish the season 27-6.
“We have a very young team,” said Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz. “We have a lot to learn and we have a lot of improving that we are capable of doing. Coming in No. 12 and playing the No. 4, we were not the favorite. Ranking wise, we knew we were the underdog but I believe we are capable of beating anyone in the tournament. Our mindset is to take it one at a time, put one foot in front of the other. We have a huge challenge facing UCLA next. They are a great team and they already beat us this year. We have to get our rest and try to do it again. I am confident our guys have learned and matured as the season has progressed and I know what we are capable of.”
In doubles, Georgia and USC split at the second and third courts and it came down to No. 1. Walker Duncan and Wayne Montgomery took a 6-4 win at No. 3 to give the Bulldogs the early doubles advantage. Their match was on serve until the last game, when Duncan slammed home a shot at the net to get the first break in the match. In the 15 matches the two have played together at the third court, they have been dominant, winning 14.At the first court, Jan Zielinski and Robert Loeb trailed 6-5 and were serving trying to force a tiebreaker. Zielinski and Loeb, who make up the nation’s top-ranked pair, quickly found themselves behind 15-40 in the game, but came back to win it and tied the match at 6-6. The USC pair of Brandon Holt and Riley Smith, ranked 14th, won the tiebreaker, 7-1, and sealed the doubles point for the Trojans.
Georgia got off to a great start in singles, winning four of the six first sets. The highlight of the opening frames was Montgomery’s comeback at the second court. The junior from Somerset West, South Africa, currently ranked 33rd, trailed 5-2 in the first set before winning five straight games to take it, 7-5. The Bulldogs nearly earned another opening set, but Zielinski dropped his first-set tiebreaker, 7-5, at No. 4.
Duncan’s 6-4, 6-1 win was the first point on the board for Georgia and evened the match, 1-1. The sophomore is now 19-5 in dual match play on the season, including a 16-4 mark at the fifth court. USC retook the lead, 2-1, after a 6-4, 6-4 win by No. 19 Brandon Holt over Georgia’s 56th-ranked Nathan Ponwith.
No. 59 Emil Reinberg evened the match at 2-2 with a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 3. The final point came when Reinberg hit a powerful serve to USC’s Logan Smith, who sailed it long. Shortly after Smith hit it, Reinberg began celebrating and ignited a roar from the crowd.
Montgomery would eventually lose his second set in a tiebreaker, and with the match tied at 2-2, only the evenly-numbered courts were yet to be decided. Zielinski and Montgomery each got an early break in the third set to gain an advantage, but the match at No. 6 was the first of the three to finish. Loeb fell 3-6, 6-4, 7-5, and Georgia then got the wins it needed to seal the victory from Zielinski and Montgomery.
Zielinski was first, holding serve in the final game to win 6-7, 6-3, 6-3, and less than two minutes later, Montgomery broke and clinched the match with a 7-5, 6-7, 6-2 win. Georgia’s dramatic victory brings to mind the team’s 4-3 win over USC in last year’s round of 16, when then-senior Austin Smith trailed 5-3 in the final set and came back to win the match for the Bulldogs.
The Bulldogs and Bruins are scheduled to meet Saturday at 4 p.m. in the quarterfinals. The two schools met earlier this season at the SEC/Pac-12 Challenge, in Gainesville, Fla., where UCLA earned a 4-3 win. The loss was part of a 3-5 start for the Bulldogs, but after Thursday’s win, they have now won 18 of their last 20 matches.
FINAL: #12 GEORGIA (21-7) 4, #4 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA (27-6) 3
3.Wayne Montgomery/ Walker Duncan (GEORGIA) def. Rob Bellamy/ Jack Jaede (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA), 6-4
6. Riley Smith (SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA) def. Robert Loeb (GEORGIA), 3-6, 6-4, 7-5
Order of Finish: Doubles (3,2,1) Singles (5,1,3,6,4,2)