The last time players from Georgia‚Äôs 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‚Äôs and women‚Äôs singles tournaments that began on Wednesday at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex are a different setup, however.
At least for Georgia sophomore Silvia Garcia.
‚ÄúIn this tournament there‚Äôs not that much pressure like in the team tournament, so I was just enjoying,‚Äù Garcia said after dispatching Northwestern‚Äôs Belinda Niu 6-2, 6-2 on court four on a day when temperatures reached the upper 80s. ‚ÄúYou 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.‚Äù
Georgia junior Lauren Herring also advanced to the second round with a 6-1, 6-2 victory against Tulane‚Äôs Klara Vyskocilova.
Herring is the No. 6 seed in the women‚Äôs championships. Garcia is a No. 9-16 seed.
While the women‚Äôs bracket held close to form on Day 1 (the biggest upset was No. 4 Julia Elbaba of Virginia losing to Stanford‚Äôs Krista Hardebeck 6-2, 6-2), there were upsets galore on the men‚Äôs side:
‚Äî Top-seed Clay Thompson from UCLA was beaten by South Florida‚Äôs Roberto Cid, 6-4, 6-3.
‚Äî No. 3 seed Julian Lenz from Baylor was bounced 6-1, 6-3 by South Carolina‚Äôs Andrew Adams.
‚Äî Virginia had two seeded players go down. No. 4 Mitchell Frank lost to UCLA‚Äôs Mackenzie McDonald 6-2, 7-5 and No. 6 Alex Domijan fell to Minnesota‚Äôs Leandro Toledo, 6-7(4), 7-6(12), 6-4.
‚Äî No. 7 Axel Alvarez from Oklahoma withdrew before his 6 p.m. match with no reason given to tournament officials.
‚Äî 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‚Äôs Alex Sarkissian 4-6, 6-1, 7-6(6) and Southern California‚Äôs Yannick Hanfmann lost 6-3, 3-6, 7-6(5) to Vanderbilt‚Äôs Ryan Lipman.
‚ÄúAustin (Smith) and I were noticing it earlier,‚Äù Georgia‚Äôs Nathan Pasha said following his 6-3, 6-4 win against North Carolina-Wilmington‚Äôs Rafael Aita. ‚ÄúTo be honest, I think a lot of guys, a lot of foreigners are just ready to go back home. They don‚Äôt really get the benefit of getting the U.S. Open wild card if you win it, so I don‚Äôt know if some of those guys are giving 100 percent. … Everyone‚Äôs good in this tournament, so upsets are possible.‚Äù
Georgia‚Äôs Smith dropped his first-round match to Drake‚Äôs 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‚Äôs side against No. 7 seed Hayley Carter from North Carolina, 6-4, 6-3.
Pasha moved on to face Notre Dame‚Äôs Greg Andrews at noon.
Herring will play Stanford‚Äôs Carol Zhao Thursday at 11 a.m. Zhao, ranked No. 21, knocked off Mississippi State‚Äôs 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‚Äôt thrilled about how she performed in a match that went two hours that had more than its share of long points and long games.
‚ÄúI was pretty flat the whole match, I thought, but hopefully I can build each and every match here,‚Äù 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.
‚ÄúShe wasn‚Äôt playing her best but she got it done in more convincing fashion,‚Äù he said. ‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a good sign to start this tournament off.‚Äù
Herring reached the quarterfinals last year also as the No. 6 seed.
‚ÄúEveryone in the draw is really good,‚Äù Herring said, ‚Äúand you can‚Äôt take anyone for granted, so I know the girl I play next round was a really good junior and she‚Äôs been a great freshman for Stanford, so I‚Äôll have a tough match next round.‚Äù
Garcia will play 10 a.m. Thursday against Stanford‚Äôs Taylor Davidson, a 6-2, 6-0 winner over Auburn‚Äôs Pleun Burgmans.
‚ÄúI‚Äôll see what she brings,‚Äù Garcia said of an opponent she knew little about. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôll see (Thursday).‚Äù
Garcia and Kate Fuller begin doubles play Thursday as will Ben Wagland and Hernus Pieters on the men‚Äôs side.
Garcia is competing this postseason with her mother, Bego√±a Jimenez, in town to watch her play for the first time after flying in from Madrid, Spain.
‚ÄúI‚Äôm so glad,‚Äù Garcias said. ‚ÄúShe‚Äôs getting to see this experience.‚Äù
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‚Äôs Florent Diep and Tennessee‚Äôs Hunter Reese.
‚ÄúI know it‚Äôs not good to say,‚Äù he said of the Bulldogs‚Äô rivals, ‚Äúbut I knew those guys from juniors, so it was kind of fun training with those guys.‚Äù
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