OXFORD, Miss. --- The top-seeded Georgia men’s tennis team got the clinch from sophomore Nathan Pasha as the Bulldogs defeated No. 8 seed Kentucky by a 4-3 score Friday night in the quarterfinals of the SEC Championships at the Palmer/Salloum Tennis Center on the Ole Miss campus. The Bulldogs (20-4) advance to meet fourth-seeded Texas A&M in the semifinals tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET.
“Kentucky has a good, very promising young team and they battled us really hard,” said head coach Manuel Diaz, who tonight coached the 700th match of his career. “They really showed that they have a bright future. Coming back from losing the doubles point, we had a couple of opportunities to close some matches, and they really battled us out and they turned the match around on court four. We were really in trouble. But I am proud of our guys. We were not as sharp as we needed to be to win this tournament. I think this match is going to go a long way in getting us sharper for tomorrow. Texas A&M is a great team, and they are playing well. But we are still in it, and we are looking forward to proving ourselves tomorrow again.”
Georgia won the doubles point with wins at Nos. 1 and 3, but the teams split first sets in singles three apiece in what proved to be a tight match in the teams’ third meeting of 2013. The Bulldogs took a 2-0 lead as junior Garrett Brasseaux defeated Juan Pablo Murra by a 6-3, 6-1 score at No. 6, but Kentucky responded to win at No. 5 as Beck Pennington downed Austin Smith, 6-3, 7-6(4) to make it 2-1.
The Bulldogs edged in front 3-1 as 53rd-ranked Ben Wagland defeated UK’s 21st-ranked Tom Jomby, 6-1, 1-6, 6-1, avenging two losses to Jomby earlier this season. The Wildcats then pulled it back to 3-2 with a 7-6(4), 6-3 win for 17th-ranked Anthony Rossi over No. 6 KU Singh at No. 1. That left just Pasha and Hernus Pieters on court for Georgia at Nos. 3 and 4, respectively. Pieters eventually fell by a score of 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 to Kevin Lai as the team score drew even at 3-3, and it was up to the sophomore Pasha, who broke to start his third set vs. Charles Minc and never looked back, earning the 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 come-from-behind victory to clinch the 4-3 win for the Bulldogs.
Georgia has now won 20 matches in a season 10 times in a row, and Diaz has done so in 21 of his 25 seasons in Athens. The Bulldogs are aiming to defend their SEC regular-season championship by also claiming the tournament title for the sweep, something Georgia has done six times in history but not since 2007.
The Bulldogs are riding an 11-match winning streak and are winners of 15 of their last 16 matches dating back to Feb. 24.
Tomorrow’s semifinal will get underway at approximately 3 p.m. ET, following the conclusion of the other match between Tennessee and Florida. Live scoring and the Georgia Tennis Live Chat will be available on Georgiadogs.com.
#2 Georgia 4, #11 Kentucky 3
1. #17 Anthony Rossi (UK) def. #6 KU Singh (UG) 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
2. #53 Ben Wagland (UG) def. #21 Tom Jomby (UK) 6-1, 1-6, 6-1
3. #46 Nathan Pasha (UG) def. Charles Minc (UK) 4-6, 6-3, 6-2
4. Kevin Lai (UK) def. #125 Hernus Pieters (UG) 2-6, 6-4, 6-3
5. Beck Pennington (UK) def. Austin Smith (UG) 6-3, 7-6 (7-4)
6. Garrett Brasseaux (UG) def. Juan Pablo Murra (UK) 6-3, 6-1
1. #6 Hernus Pieters/Ben Wagland (UG) def. #9 Tom Jomby/Kevin Lai (UK) 8-6
2. #23 Nathan Pasha/Garrett Brasseaux (UG) vs. Beck Pennington/Ryuji Hirooka (UK) 8-8, unfinished
3. Marco Nunez/KU Singh (UG) def. Juan Pablo Murra/Anthony Rossi (UK) 8-5
Kentucky 20-11; National ranking #11
Georgia 20-4; National ranking #2
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1); Singles (6,5,2,1,4,3)