Winning their first NCAA individual singles matches didn’t necessarily cleanse three Bulldogs’ palates after Georgia’s upset loss in the team quarterfinals last week, but it took much of the bitter taste from their mouths.
Wil Spencer, Sadio Doumbia and Ignacio Toboada each claimed first-round victories as the individual singles draw opened on Wednesday at the NCAA Tennis Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
“It still hurts, but this really helps,” Spencer said. “This is a whole different animal from the team draw. You don’t have the crowd out here going ‘woo’ for every point. The crowd’s not fired up as much because it’s not exactly the same. It’s tough. It takes a little while to recover because you put so much into it. But it will go away. Time is going to heal it and winning this will make it feel a lot better.”
Spencer beat Georgia Tech’s Juan Spir 6-3, 6-0. Doumbia knocked off Washington’s Kyle McMorrow 6-2, 6-4. Toboada played the most exciting match of the day for Georgia as he went three sets to beat Baylor’s Mate Zsiga 4-6, 6-4, 6-2. Georgia also had a pair of first-round losses on Wednesday as Georgia Tech’s Kevin King beat KU Singh 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 and Oklahoma’s Costin Paval beat Hernus Pieters 6-3, 6-4.
“I’m really pleased with our guys,” Georgia coach Manuel Diaz said. “I’m really pleased that Nacho (Doumbia), Wil and Sadio moved forward. I’m really proud of all of our guys. As we move forward, I’m sure they’re all excited and they have the opportunity for All-American status with one more win. But there’s going to be some tough challenges with the next round.”
Spencer will play the winner between Virginia Tech’s Luka Somen and Florida’s Tripper Carleton at 11 a.m. today. Doumbia will play LSU’s Neal Skupski at 1:30 p.m. Taboada will play Kentucky’s Alex Musialek at 1 p.m.
Toboada dropped his first set to Zsiga but rallied to win in the second set and then rolled through the third to clinch his 100th victory of his career and it came in his first appearance in the NCAA individual singles draw.
“You can’t ask for more,” Toboada said. “It was a rough start in the beginning. I was a little nervous, but I got it going in the second set. I had a few opportunities there, but now I’m really, really happy. This is something special right now.”
Doumbia’s win came as redemption because he took the loss in the deciding match in Sunday’s NCAA quarterfinal loss to Pepperdine. On Wednesday, Doumbia took care of McMorrow in straight sets.
“It came down to me on Sunday, so I was disappointed,” Doumbia said. “I didn’t want to finish with two losses in a row and I won so I’m glad. I was up 6-2, 4-2 and he came back when I kind of lost focus. But still, 6-2, 6-4 isn’t bad.”
Georgia sent a school-record five competitors to the individual singles championships on Wednesday and four of them played on the same court. Georgia lost its first two matches of the day, but Spencer and Toboada stopped the bleeding with their wins. Spencer’s came against one of Georgia’s biggest rivals, Georgia Tech. Georgia’s previous high for singles participants was four in 2007 and 2008.
“You want to win against everybody, especially Georgia Tech,” Spencer said. “That’s just a little added spark.”
Spencer made short work of Spir, especially after he clinched the first set. Spencer won the last eight points of the match and ended it with an ace.
“You don’t want to be out there grinding too hard in this heat, in the first round especially,” Spencer said. “You want to save it for later in the tournament if you can. He’s a good player but maybe was a little off today. I felt good today. My serve was really working today. Everything was clicking. I was getting to a lot of balls today and he didn’t play very good, so that had a lot to do with it, too.”
Georgia Tech’s Kevin King beat Singh 7-6 (7-4), 6-4 in the first round. Singh has been hobbled by a sore knee for most of the month and will need some time off to rest it after the tournament. His entire match was close but King won the critical points at the end of both sets to clinch the match.
“I just played maybe three bad points the whole match and I lost, so I’m happy. I can’t really complain,” Singh said. “Just three points, two in the tiebreaker and one at break point, but otherwise I was fine, just unlucky.
Pieters fell to Oklahoma’s Costin Pavel 6-3, 6-4. In both sets, Pieters fell behind early but made runs to get back into contention only to see Pavel pull away at the end.
“I think Pavel) played a really a really good match,” Pieters said. “I could have done a few things better, but all-in-all, he put a lot of pressure on me. He started playing really well and came out of the blocks faster. The first set I was just catching up. The second set, I played a good set and he just pulled away.”