Wagland, Bulldogs quickly put away Binghamton to advance to second round

It didn’t take Ben Wagland long to notch his win at No. 1 singles on Friday.

The Georgia freshman demolished his opponent in less than an hour.

“We just expect him to play the kind of tennis he’s been coming on and playing here lately as the season has gone on,” said Georgia coach Manuel Diaz, whose team beat Binghamton 4-0 in the first round of the NCAA tournament. “He’s good enough to win against anybody in the country.”

Wagland, who played regularly at No. 2 during the regular season, got the news Wednesday that he would be playing at the top spot after KU Singh quit the team earlier this week. Wagland said he was shocked when Diaz first informed him of the lineup change.

But he’s liking the idea more and more.

“There’s not much difference from two or three to one but it’s just the belief, I guess, and the coaches who believe in me, so it gave me confidence just stepping out there [Friday] on the court,” said Wagland, who won 6-1, 6-2. “I didn’t feel too much pressure because I had them all behind me.”

Georgia, who is seeded third overall in the tournament, clinched the doubles point after wins by Wagland and partner Hernus Pieters, 8-1, on court one and Nathan Pasha and Garrett Brasseaux on court two, 8-4.

Diaz said he was surprised by how sharp the team was in its first match in two weeks. Pleasantly surprised, of course.

“Usually we struggle a little bit more first match of the NCAAs after a couple weeks of inactivity, but guys have practiced hard and the guys have got a great sense of focus, so we played a pretty good match,” he said.

After Wagland made quick work of Binghamton’s Sid Hazarika, fellow freshman Marco Nunez put away Eliott Hureau 6-3, 6-2 on court six. All three of Georgia’s singles points came from freshmen.

“I started a little bit slow,” Nunez said. “The first round is always a little bit hard, but the second set was way better for me. I was able to play my game way better. It’s just good that the freshmen were good. … It showed how young our team is and how good we’ll be.”

A match-point ace by Austin Smith clinched the first-round win for the Bulldogs, ending the singles portion of the team match in a little more than an hour.

As quickly as the Bulldogs (23-4) got off the court in the first round, their second-round opponent, Northwestern, can’t say the same. Wake Forest kept the Wildcats on the court in singles action for a little more than two hours before Chris Jackman notched the 3-6, 7-6 (7-3), 7-5 win on court six.

Nunez will take on Jackman in today’s 3 p.m. match.

“I’m pretty sure he’ll be a little bit tired,” Nunez said. “I think that will help me a little bit.”

Diaz called the Wildcats “tenacious” and said they look very fit, which helped them battle for so long against the Demon Deacons.

With a win over Northwestern, Georgia would head to Champaign, Ill., for the NCAA tournament’s round of 16.

“With the crowd behind us and two weeks off, it was definitely good for us to get the first two rounds here and hopefully we can win [today] and get to Illinois,” Wagland said.

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