The last time players from Georgia’s tennis teams stepped on the court for a match, hopes were dashed in a do-or-die environment for their seasons.
The top-seeded women were upset by Florida in the quarterfinals of the NCAA team championships last Saturday.
The No. 10 men were ousted in the round of 16 by North Carolina a day earlier.
The 64-player men’s and women’s singles tournaments that began on Wednesday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex are a different setup, however.
At least for Georgia sophomore Silvia Garcia.
“In this tournament there’s not that much pressure like in the team tournament, so I was just enjoying,” Garcia said after dispatching Northwestern’s Belinda Niu 6-2, 6-2 on court four on a day when temperatures reached the upper 80s. “You never get to play before your home crowd for a national or international tournament, so it was really fun and I played well and loose and I think that helped me.”
Georgia junior Lauren Herring also advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Tulane’s Klara Vyskocilova.
Herring is the No. 6 seed in the women’s championships. Garcia is a No. 9-16 seed.
While the women’s bracket held close to form on Day 1 (the biggest upset was No. 4 Julia Elbaba of Virginia losing to Stanford’s Krista Hardebeck 6-2, 6-2), there were upsets galore on the men’s side:
— Top-seed Clay Thompson from UCLA was beaten by South Florida’s Roberto Cid, 6-4, 6-3.
— No. 3 seed Julian Lenz from Baylor was bounced 6-1, 6-3 by South Carolina’s Andrew Adams.
— Virginia had two seeded players go down. No. 4 Mitchell Frank lost to UCLA’s Mackenzie McDonald 6-2, 7-5 and No. 6 Alex Domijan fell to Minnesota’s Leandro Toledo, 6-7(4), 7-6(12), 6-4.
— No. 7 Axel Alvarez from Oklahoma withdrew before his 6 p.m. match with no reason given to tournament officials.
— Three No. 9-16 seeds went out. Ray Sarmiento of Southern California lost 6-1, 6-1 to Fred Saba of Duke, Brayden Schnur of North Carolina fell to Pepperdine’s Alex Sarkissian 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6) and Southern California’s Yannick Hanfmann lost 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) to Vanderbilt’s Ryan Lipman.
“Austin (Smith) and I were noticing it earlier,” Georgia’s Nathan Pasha said following his 6-3, 6-4 win against North Carolina-Wilmington’s Rafael Aita. “To be honest, I think a lot of guys, a lot of foreigners are just ready to go back home. They don’t really get the benefit of getting the U.S. Open wild card if you win it, so I don’t know if some of those guys are giving 100 percent. … Everyone’s good in this tournament, so upsets are possible.”
Georgia’s Smith dropped his first-round match to Drake’s Allen Salibasic 6-7(5), 6-4, 7-5. He ended the year with a team-leading 35 victories.
Senior Maho Kowase from Georgia, ranked No. 20, also went out in the first round on the women’s side against No. 7 seed Hayley Carter from North Carolina, 6-4, 6-3.
Pasha moved on to face Notre Dame’s Greg Andrews at noon.
Herring will play Stanford’s Carol Zhao Thursday at 11 a.m. Zhao, ranked No. 21, knocked off Mississippi State’s Georgiana Patrasac, 6-1, 6-1. Herring and Kowase will play a first-round doubles match at 3 p.m. Thursday as the No. 2 seed.
Herring, playing on court five, improved to 31-5 on the season, but wasn’t thrilled about how she performed in a match that went two hours that had more than its share of long points and long games.
“I was pretty flat the whole match, I thought, but hopefully I can build each and every match here,” Herring said of facing Vyskocilova, a Clemson transfer who had a 15-match winning streak snapped.
Georgia assistant Drake Bernstein remembered that Herring needed three sets last year to get out of the first round.
“She wasn’t playing her best but she got it done in more convincing fashion,” he said. “It’s a good sign to start this tournament off.”
Herring reached the quarterfinals last year also as the No. 6 seed.
“Everyone in the draw is really good,” Herring said, “and you can’t take anyone for granted, so I know the girl I play next round was a really good junior and she’s been a great freshman for Stanford, so I’ll have a tough match next round.”
Garcia will play 10 a.m. Thursday against Stanford’s Taylor Davidson, a 6-2, 6-0 winner over Auburn’s Pleun Burgmans.
“I’ll see what she brings,” Garcia said of an opponent she knew little about. “We’ll see (Thursday).”
Garcia and Kate Fuller begin doubles play Thursday as will Ben Wagland and Hernus Pieters on the men’s side.
Garcia is competing this postseason with her mother, Begoña Jimenez, in town to watch her play for the first time after flying in from Madrid, Spain.
“I’m so glad,” Garcias said. “She’s getting to see this experience.”
Pasha, who battled a knee injury during the team tournament that he said still gets sore, took a day off from playing and then trained with Florida’s Florent Diep and Tennessee’s Hunter Reese.
“I know it’s not good to say,” he said of the Bulldogs’ rivals, “but I knew those guys from juniors, so it was kind of fun training with those guys.”
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