Athens, GA - The 11th-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team will kick off the spring season against a familiar field, playing in the SEC Coaches Indoor Championships Jan. 14-17 at the newly-renovated Goodfriend Indoor Tennis Center on the Tennessee campus in Knoxville, Tenn.
Georgia’s first tournament of the spring is formatted as an individual event but gives teams chance to get a glimpse of its conference competition before dual matches get underway.
“Our guys are really excited to go out there and compete for the first time this semester,” said 23rd-year head coach Manuel Diaz. “The competition will be tough, including some of the best players in the country, and as always this is a championship that we look forward to competing in. It gives us a chance to find out a lot more about our competition for the conference and the teams we will face all year. Our team has put in a good week of work and is really hungry for some matches.”
Georgia is one of eight of the 12 Southeastern Conference programs that will participate this weekend, joining the No. 3 host Volunteers, No. 9 Florida, No. 12 Kentucky, No. 18 Ole Miss, No. 34 Alabama, No. 41 Mississippi State, and No. 45 LSU.
In 2010 Georgia was represented in both the singles and doubles finals when the event was held at the Racquet Club of the South in Norcross, Ga., with UGA as the host school. Historically, Georgia has fared well at this event, winning either singles or doubles titles for four straight years from 2005-08 and a total of 48 since 1976. As a team tournament up until 1988, the Bulldogs won the event eight times including six in a row from 1982-87.
No. 11 Georgia comes off a strong fall campaign in which freshman Hernus Pieters won the singles title and teamed with Javier Garrapiz for the doubles title at the season-opening Southern Intercollegiates in Athens in September. Garrapiz and junior transfer Sadio Doumbia then took their skills to Tulsa, Okla., in October for the ITA All-America Championships, where Doumbia played his way into the main draw and Garrapiz reached the finals of the consolation draw against some of the nation’s top players. At the USTA/ITA Southeast Regional, it was junior Wil Spencer’s turn to shine, as he became the 10th Bulldog to capture the singles title to earn a bid to the ITA National Indoor Championships in Flushing, N.Y.
The Bulldogs begin the year ranked No. 11 – the same place they finished the 2010 spring after a run to the NCAA semifinals on their home courts with an overall record of 21-8. Garrapiz will start with an individual singles ranking of No. 13, followed by teammates Doumbia (No. 47), Spencer (No. 53), and Pieters (No. 119). Georgia has two teams rated in doubles, with Garrapiz and Pieters sitting at No. 14 and the pairing of Doumbia and junior Ignacio Taboada ranked No. 23.
The SEC Indoors will be the debut for Georgia’s freshman quartet as well as the three transfers in Doumbia, Spencer, and Taboada.
Action at the SEC Indoors kicks off this Friday, Jan. 14 and will run through Monday, Jan. 17 with both sets of finals.