#STINGDAILY: Breaking In the New Digs With a Two Wins

Jan. 18, 2013

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

The big picture was a bit fuzzy Friday, when the Georgia Tech men’s tennis team not only opened its spring season but played for the first time in a new home.

It would not be right to say that the Yellow Jackets’ 5-2 win over Old Dominion and their 4-3 win over Lipscomb were ugly. They were just odd.

Sure felt good, though, after youth carried the day (and night) as smaller details glowed. Tech’s freshmen and juniors combined to go 14-3. That was a good thing because it was not a great day for senior Jackets.

“This place is unbelievable,” said sophomore Eduardo Segura, who won 6-0, 6-4 at No. 4 singles over Old Dominion’s Zvonimir Pdovinski and then clinched the nightcap against Lipscomb with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 win over Daniel Hernandez.

“This is fantastic to have six indoor courts so nobody has to wait to play like we did when there were just three. The lighting is perfect, and it’s good to get out here and get some confidence.”

In the afternoon match, freshman Nathan Rakitt and Segura bolted to easy wins at No. 5 and No. 4 singles to give the Jackets a 3-0 lead before things got dicey. Actually, there was already a peculiar feel in the Byers Tennis Complex beyond the smell of new paint … and it lingered.

Tech earlier swept the doubles point, although the top team of Juan Spir and Vikram Hundal at No. 1 was the only group that had to break a sweat. That was peculiar because they’re ranked No. 3 in the nation.

Yet they won by a modest score of 8-6 after the duos of Juan Melian and Rakitt and Garrett Gordon and Segura had each won 8-2 at Nos. 2 and 3, respectively, to clinch the doubles point. Gordon and Segura topped the No. 34 doubles squad, in fact.

Rakitt’s 6-2, 6-1 win over Wesley Barrett, and Segura’s win pushed Tech within a point of victory. That winner became elusive, though, and something seemed off.

For one thing, the opposing head coach was so familiar looking. Aljosa Piric was an assistant at Tech for three years before taking his first head coaching job in Virginia. “We’re very happy to see Aljosa,” Segura said.

Then, there was sun creeping in a few places. It was almost startling after a week or so of danky days.

On court one, the reigning ACC Player of the Week was scuffling. Spir got off to a 4-1 lead, and then lost six straight games before winning a couple in the second set.

Meanwhile, freshman Garrett Gordon was in a humdinger of a first set only to drop a tiebreaker at at the end. Then, after falling 7-6 in the first, he fell 6-0 in the second to Dante Torenzio as Old Dominion won at No. 6 for its first point.

Back at No. 1, the nations’ No. 32-ranked player never found and kept a rhythm and lost 6-4, 6-4 to Carlos Lopez Villa as ODU pulled within 3-2.

Hundal sealed the match with a 7-6, 7-5 win over Jonas Kuwert, and the Jackets went about resting and replenishing before a rare double-header match against Lipscomb that was to start at 7 p.m.

The Jackets’ recent trips have been good, Segura said, for building confidence although Spir’s game was fleeting.

“In the ACC, it is going to be very competitive,” Segura said. “There will be a couple top 10 teams, and another in the top 20. We’re looking forward to playing more, and to eventually playing on the new courts outdoors. That will be about another month, I think.”

Oddities continued in the evening match.

The Jackets swept the doubles again, and then Spir fell sick before singles play. That might explain his erratic singles effort in the opener. No details are presently available.

Coach Kenny Thorne had to juggle his lineup, moving several players up and popping freshman Anish Sharma in at No. 6 singles.

Spir’s replacement, Juan Melian defaulted with a sprained ankle when he led 2-1 in the first set.

So, Tech’s two seniors were out of the picture, and Lipscomb tied the score 1-1.

Fans, and there was a good crowd, surely were thinking, ‘This would not be the way to christen a fancy new building.’

No worries.

Rakitt won 6-1, 6-1 at No. 4, and although Gordon fell at No. 5 to knot the score again, Hundal, a sophomoren won 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2, and Segura won 6-4, 4-6, 6-1 at No. 3 to clinch.

They played these matches out for practice sake, and Sharma – the youngest (18) and most diminutive Jacket (5-feet-7, 135 pounds) – made Alpharetta proud by gutting out a 4-6, 7-5, 5-7 loss to Lipscomb’s John Tougher.

That made Tech’s freshmen 6-3 on the day. Sophomores were 8-0. Tech has no juniors, and Spir and Melian – the seniors – were a combined 5-2 with both losses asterisk-impaired.

Here’s hoping that the upperclassmen get well soon.

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