#STINGDAILY: Battling Through

March 24, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

The Yellow Jackets continued their cold, gray march Sunday afternoon, when the men’s tennis team’s match against North Carolina State was moved indoors at the Byers Tennis Complex because of weather more fitting a late-autumn football game.

Georgia Tech fell 4-3, the third time in four ACC matches that the Jackets have fallen beneath that score, and the fourth time that they have been undone by their jumbled doubles lineup and soft spots at the bottom of the lineup where walk-on freshmen are being asked to do more than they might have expected.

“We need to find that fourth [team] point,” head coach Kenny Thorne said afterward in exercising his right to repeat himself.

A rough weekend that began with a home loss Friday to Wake Forest ended with a more competitive outing by the Jackets. The Wolfpack (9-6, 3-1 ACC) is ranked No. 45 nationally, and yet Tech (7-10, 0-4) stretched the visitors out to the very last match.

Ed Segura eventually fell at No. 3 singles, but not before trading multiple service breaks in the third set against NC State’s Austin Powell and the dropping the decisive set 6-4.

Tech began the season with a light, eight-man roster, and injuries have complicated matters.

There is just one injury of note right now, but the absence of sophomore Vikram Hundal has had a cascading effect.

His knee is improving, and he may return earlier than the dreadful first forecast that he would be lost for the entire regular season and perhaps the ACC Tournament.

When Hundal went on the shelf, the nation’s No. 4 doubles team – he was paired with senior Juan Spir – was cut in half. Spir’s moved around since then, and the Jackets have continued to compete well at Nos. 1 and 2 doubles.

A team has to win two out of three doubles matches to win the doubles points, and the Jackets have been overwhelmed at No. 3 doubles since Hundal went down. That’s made it mandatory that Tech win at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles. Generally, they’re splitting those matches in ACC action, and starting singles play down 0-1.

That’s what happened Sunday. Spir and Segura won at No. 1 doubles, but Nathan Rakitt and Juan Melian fell 4-8 at No. 2. Freshmen Gordon Garrett and walk-on Colin Edwards lost 2-8 at No. 3.

From there, the Jackets performed better in singles than against Wake Forest.

Garrett, who likely would be at No. 6 singles if Hundal were in the lineup at No. 4, lost 0-6, 1-6 at No. 5 singles in his second match back from mononucleosis.

Freshman Nathan Rakitt pulled Tech to within 2-1 with a win at No. 4 singles, although he would likely be at No. 5 if Hundal were healthy.

Melian tied the match with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Robbie Mudge at No. 1 singles. Melian’s won nine of his last 11 matches.

The Jackets trailed again, however, after Edwards fell at No. 6 singles. The Jackets have struggled at No. 5 and No. 6 singles since Hundal went out, especially when Gordon was still out with mono. At that time, another walk-on, Anish Sharma, was in the lineup.

With all the remaining pressure on singles players at Nos. 1-4, the Jackets have scrapped their tails off – particularly in the 4-3 losses to Miami, Florida State and NC State – but without yet seeing reward.

“The guys are battling, they’re fighting,” Thorne said. “We made some mistakes at the wrong time.”

Spir again evened the match with a 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 2 singles over NC State’s Thomas Weigel.

Segura, though, lost to Austin Powell 3-6, 6-3, 4-6 to decide the match.

Tech is 0-4 at No. 3 doubles in ACC action, and a combined 0-8 at Nos. 5 and 6 singles. That’s tough to overcome.

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