Club tennis team qualifies for nationals

Posted: Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:12 pm | Updated: 12:14 pm, Fri Mar 22, 2013.

PRESTON SMITH

The Georgia club tennis team recently earned a bid to the USTA Tennis On Campus National Championship held in Surprise, Ariz. on April 11-13.

The team beat out North Carolina for fifth place over the weekend at the 2013 USTA Tennis On Campus Southern Championships to receive the consolation bid to nationals. The Southern sectionals were held in Auburn, Ala.

The club squad will travel to nationals for the first time since the spring of 2010, in hopes of bringing home a title. Georgia will be facing a field of 64 club teams from across the country at the Surprise Tennis and Raquet Center. Four men and four women will make the trip, although specifically who hasn’t been determined.

“I’m looking forward to winning at nationals,” freshman Tyler Kallgren said. “We are going to have a stronger team definitely because some kids that couldn’t go to Southerns this weekend are already confirmed to go to nationals, so we should have a pretty stacked team.”

Georgia’s club team has been improving across the board since the arrival of current team captain Scott Slezak, a junior singles and doubles player.

“Attendance has almost tripled,” Slezak said. “The last two years we have had 8-10 people at practice on a normal day, and now we have anywhere from 24 to 30 when the weather is nice, so we have definitely been expanding. My freshman year we only played two tournaments and two home matches for fun and sophomore year it was three tournaments and two home matches. This year we will have had seven tournaments, five home matches, and we have actually played two division two varsity schools as well.”

Tennis at the club level is significantly different than at the university level. At the university level, there are three doubles matches (the team that wins two receives the point) and six singles matches worth a point each. The winner is the first team to get to four points.

At the club level, you get a point for every game won on each court. Each match is decided by the first to win six games. There are only five total matchups: one men’s doubles team, one women’s doubles team, one men’s singles match, one women’s singles match and one mixed doubles match (with one man and one woman forming each pair). The mixed match is always played last, and if the team that is losing wins the mixed match, then the match continues until that team loses a game or comes back to win. Overall matchups are scored based on how many games are won during the entire match, so a team could theoretically win three out of the five matches and still lose the overall matchup, due to close victories and blowout losses.

“If you are one of those people who starts slow you will have a hard time with it,” freshman singles player Harris Blair said. “But if you’re one of those people who jumps out really fast, then this is the way to go. It really just takes time getting used to, and you have to warm up a lot before. It makes a significant difference if you are ready to go right then, but if you start cold you are going to have a difficult time catching up.”

Slezak, a veteran to the points system, acknowledges the difference, but has learned to use it as an advantage.

“There’s definitely a learning curve to it,” Slezak said. “It’s fast and furious, but I have played every event since fall 2010, and at this point I’m pretty used to it. I’m left-handed, and my game’s a little trickier, so it’s actually a big advantage for me. The fact that it’s much shorter, it gives the other team less time to figure out my goofiness. I think we’ll have the best squad we’ve had in my entire time here at nationals.”

While the club tennis team does not provide scholarships, Georgia has produced some strong competition. The club team faced two Division-II teams this year (Young Harris and Newberry), and while the squad lost both matches, it was plenty competitive at less than full strength. This fall the team plans to face Young Harris and Newberry again.

The Bulldogs will look to improve upon its 2010 nationals berth, when it went 3-2 but lost a heartbreaker 23-22 to Michigan to finish in second in its pool.

 

— Source: Red & Black

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