With No. 2 seed Ben Wagland’s 6-4, 6-4 victory over Barry’s Leo Vivas early Friday evening, Georgia made a clean 5-for-5 sweep in singles during the first day of the 46th annual Southern Intercollegiate Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
“I saw that four of them had won before I played, so I knew I had to win,” Wagland, who will face Georgia Gwinnett’s Erik Moberg in the second round at 10:30 a.m. today, said.
The Georgia sophomore, an Australia native, said he’d faced the burly Vivas before but didn’t remember him being as physically imposing the last time they met.
“I actually knew that guy five years ago when I was back home training, and he’s a good player,” Wagland said. “[Today] was my first match in three months and I was pretty happy just to come out here and get the win. (Vivas) was really good back then. He probably beat me, I can’t really remember. But he wasn’t that big then.”
The Division I tournament’s top seed did not fare as well Friday as Wagland, however, as Vanderbilt’s Ryan Lipman fell to East Tennessee State’s Rogerio Riberio 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.
Wagland, who had to come from behind early in the second set to claim the first-round victory, had his share of challenges against Vivas, not the least of which was some wicked English on his serve. But Wagland’s service game was not to be ignored.
“He grew up on clay, so he’s been serving pretty heavy,” Wagland said of Vivas. “I struggled with that a lot. He was getting me high on the back end … I served really well. That got me through the match pretty much because I was a bit rusty in some areas and didn’t hit my forehand very well. He was playing good as well, so that made it hard. I need to work hard on improving.”
Unseeded Nick Wood was the first Bulldog off the court Friday, posting a 6-4, 6-1 victory over Will Neuner of Florida Atlantic. It was Wood’s first match since February, when he suffered a dislocated ankle during conditioning drills.
“It feels so good just to be back,” Wood said. “It’s been so long since I played a match – since February, actually. It felt really good to get a W today.”
Wood, who will face Virginia Tech’s Hunter Koontz at 9:30 a.m. today in the second round, said he was not favoring his ankle when he hit the court Friday.
“I’m pretty confident with it right now,” he said. “I’ve been rehabbing it every day and I’ve been working real hard. It felt good out there today.”
Georgia’s Nathan Pasha, the tournament’s No. 3 seed, made quick work of his opponent, Vasily Eremeev of Tennessee Tech, winning 6-1, 6-4, despite Eremeev’s unconventional service game.
“His motion was a bit unorthodox,” Pasha, who went 35-15 for Georgia last year, said of Eremeev, a senior from Krasnoyarsk, Russia. “When you first look at it, you kind of do a double-take to get a good look at what he’s actually doing. Different things work for different people. … It threw me off a little bit and I had to make my split step a bit later. I had to time my split step a bit better off the way he was serving.”
Pasha will face Hayes Brewer of Alabama in the second round at 9:30 a.m. today.
Other Georgia winners on Friday included No. 6 seed Hernus Pieters, who defeated Lander’s Vincent Verpeaux 7-6(3), 6-3 and No. 8 seed Austin Smith, who needed three sets to oust Virginia Tech’s Jail Corbett, 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.
Pieters will face Vanderbilt’s Kris Yee, who beat Barry’s Ahmed Triki 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, at 9:30 a.m. today. Smith Rafael Rondino of Alabama-Birmingham, who bested Winthrop’s Dylan Comerford, who won 6-4, 6-4 over Furman’s Matt Browne at 9:30 a.m. today.
In Friday’s late doubles matches, Peters and Wagland were slated to meet Rhys Johnson and Ryan Smith of Vanderbilt. Smith and Wood were set to oppose Browne and Juan Sheppard of Furman.