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Men's Tennis Match With Georgia More than Just a Rivalry

Feb. 11, 2011

By Matt Winkeljohn
Sting Daily

– If you’re a regular reader here, you’ll recall last week’s women’s tennis match at Georgia was a big deal in its own way, and so it will be this afternoon when the male Bulldogs come calling and Georgia Tech honors former tennis All-Americans and the 2007 women’s team that won the NCAA title.

The 1 p.m. match at the Bill Moore Tennis Center between the No. 21-ranked Yellow Jackets and No. 11 Georgia will have another layer of relevance to it; a chance to close another kind of gap on UGA.

Beyond the annoying fact that the Tech men have not beaten the Dogs since 1988, there is the pesky reality that the program in Athens is a full-time Goliath. The on-court product is one of the very best in the nation, and the facility is state of the art to where NCAA championships are often played there.

Tech is trying to catch up.

Men’s coach Kenny Thorne and women’s coach Bryan Shelton – former Jackets who rank No. 1 and tied for No. 2 in Tech history in wins — are doing more than their shares while seeking more shares.

Plans to dramatically overhaul the Tech tennis facility are moving forward, yet the pace has slowed. Fund raising is in progress. That finish line is in sight, but inching closer rather than closing fast.

“We’ve had some really generous donors and friends of Georgia Tech tennis, and they’ve helped us endow scholarships to where we’re almost fully endowed on the men’s side,” said Thorne, who won 112 singles matches as a collegian. “The women are closing in on it as well.

“Now, our big push is to try and get six indoor courts, and a new outdoor stadium, and gets some of the things currently wrong with our outdoor courts fixed. We can turn it into an incredibly nice complex.”

Tech (5-1) and Georgia (5-1) figure to put on a show, and the weather is predicted to be pretty nice. The former Tech greats will be honored between the singles and doubles matches.

Twelfth-ranked senior Guillermo Gomez, whose 101 wins tie him with Shelton, is not only pushing to catch his coach atop the wins list, but seeking for the first time to lead the Jackets past the Bulldogs.

Time is not expiring, but moving slowly on the push to move into Georgia’s neighborhood on another level. Atlanta is on par with any city when it comes to tennis. Tech wants to be on par with Georgia.

“We’re so close,” Thorne said. “We’re really close to having something really special down here. In the spring we’re meeting with many people who are not just Georgia Tech alumnus, but friends of tennis.

“Come out [today] if you want to see guys really competing at the highest level. These guys will go on the pro tour. Some will do pretty well. I think it’s something that you need to see for yourself. You’re sitting about 10 feet away from somebody hitting the ball 120 mph. It’s exciting, really exciting. I think we can get some people behind our program.”

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