ATHENS, Ga. --- The Georgia men’s tennis team got the clinch from red-hot sophomore Austin Smith in a 4-3 victory over No. 17 Florida on Sunday afternoon at Linder Stadium at the Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville. The win was Georgia’s seventh in a row, moving the team to 10-5 overall and a perfect 5-0 in conference play. It also marks the seventh straight singles win for Smith.
“It’s another great win for our guys,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “I feel great about this match, because Florida played well enough to win. As a team, we’re getting better every day and we’re getting tougher, and that’s the difference right now. We are finding confidence to raise our game in the tough matches. Right now, the important thing is for the guys to get some rest after playing five matches in 10 days. This was a grind, but it has made us better.”
Georgia started out with another doubles-point win, as the Bulldogs’ Nos. 1 and 2 teams prevailed over the Gators to push the squad out to a 1-0 lead. First off was the No. 2 team of Garrett Brasseaux and Nathan Pasha, who defeated the team of Mike Alford and Florent Diep, 8-5. They were followed by the 21st-ranked team of Ben Wagland and Hernus Pieters, who posted a tiebreak victory over No. 11 Elliott Orkin and Gordon Watson, 8-7(5), to seal it.
“The guys did a great job coming back from down a break at No. 1 doubles,” Diaz said. “Our No. 3 team was battling hard again, but it was No. 2 who were able to get that solid victory and reestablish themselves and play well today. Our No. 1 doubles team is on a bit of a roll now, they’re more comfortable and they’re serving and returning well, so it’s nice to develop some consistency there.”
Heading to singles, the Bulldogs and Gators would split first sets evenly at three apiece, while Brasseaux led Georgia to a 2-0 lead as he won his No. 4 match, 6-3, 6-3, over Lipman. Wagland then fell at No. 2 to Diep, 6-1, 6-1, as the Gators trimmed the lead to 2-1, but Nick Wood gave the Bulldogs a 3-1 lead with a 7-6(7), 6-4 win over Orkin at No. 6.
With Georgia in need of just one more point for the victory, Florida won the next two matches as Alford beat Pieters, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 at No. 5 to make it 3-2, then Watson edged Pasha on a pair of tiebreakers, 7-6(5), 7-6(3), to tie it 3-3 with just Smith remaining on court for Georgia at No. 3.
After coming back from a break down in the first set, Smith was able to do the same in the second, going on to win and clinch for Georgia with a 7-6(5), 7-5 victory over Diego Hidalgo to make it 4-3. The Atlanta native is now 27-9 on the season, 9-4 in dual matches, and 4-0 in SEC action with a seven-match winning streak. Today was the second clinch of the season for Smith.
“As a team, I thought everybody did a good job competing and getting it done,” Diaz said. “Nick Wood was phenomenal in the first set, coming back from down 6-3 in the tiebreaker, and hit a great passing shot down 5-6. He showed tremendous composure, and was able to raise his game to win that tiebreaker and then win his second set as well. Garrett was impeccable today, and Austin Smith just played lights-out in his second set after he was down a break at 5-3. He just keeps finding a way to raise his game. He does a tremendous job of competing, and his level of tennis right there at the end was world class.”
Georgia will take on the only other remaining unbeaten team in the SEC when it hosts Kentucky on Friday night in Athens. The Bulldogs will then take on Vanderbilt on Sunday. Diaz is now just five wins shy of 600 for his career.
#16 Georgia 4, #17 Florida 3
1. #106 Gordon Watson (FLORIDA) def. #25 Nathan Pasha (UGA) 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-3)
2. Florent Diep (FLORIDA) def. #87 Ben Wagland (UGA) 6-1, 6-1
3. #13 Austin Smith (UGA) def. Diego Hidalgo (FLORIDA) 7-6 (7-5), 7-5
4. #79 Garrett Brasseaux (UGA) def. Maxx Lipman (FLORIDA) 6-3, 6-3
5. Mike Alford (FLORIDA) def. Hernus Pieters (UGA) 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
6. Nick Wood (UGA) def. #82 Elliott Orkin (FLORIDA) 7-6 (9-7), 6-4
1. #21 Ben Wagland/Hernus Pieters (UGA) def. #11 Elliott Orkin/Gordon Watson (FLORIDA) 8-7 (7-5)
2. Nathan Pasha/Garrett Brasseaux (UGA) def. Mike Alford/Florent Diep (FLORIDA) 8-5
3. Maxx Lipman/Diego Hidalgo (FLORIDA) vs. Eric Diaz/Austin Smith (UGA) 7-7, unfinished
Georgia 10-5 (4-0); National ranking #16
Florida 7-6 (2-2); National ranking #17
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (4,2,6,5,1,3)