April 24, 2013
THE FLATS – Georgia Tech has drawn the 10th seed in this week’s Atlantic Coast Conference Championship and will face 7th-seed Florida State (17-9, 4-6 ACC) when the Yellow Jackets open play at the Cary (N.C.) Tennis Center at 12 noon Thursday.
The Yellow Jackets, unranked with an 8-15 overall record and a 1-9 conference mark, finished the regular season in 10th place. The Seminoles, which got by Tech, 4-3, on March 15 in Atlanta, are ranked No. 34 nationally. The winner of the Tech-FSU match will advance to face No. 2-seed Duke (21-4, 9-1) at 12 noon Friday.
Also on Tech’s side of the bracket are 6th-seeded Virginia Tech (14-8, 6-4) and 11th-seeded Boston College (5-15, 0-10), who play at 3 p.m. Thursday. The winner of that match faces the No. 3 seed Wake Forest (18-7, 7-3) at 3 p.m. Friday. Semifinals matches are set for 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, with the championship match scheduled for 11 a.m. Sunday. Undefeated and top-ranked Virginia (21-0, 10-0) is the top seed.
Tech has never won an ACC title in men’s tennis, but the Yellow Jackets have reached the finals of the ACC Championship, which has been conducted in its current format since 1986, four times (1988, 1994, 1999 and 2002).
Tech began the spring ranked No. 59, anchored by a pair of seniors in Juan Spir and Juan Melian, but struggled early against a spate of top 20 opponents and won only one ACC match (6-1 over Boston College), falling out of the ITA rankings altogether. The Yellow Jackets have been without sophomore Vikram Hundal (knee), their No. 3 singles player and half of one of the nation’s best doubles teams, for most of the conference season, and have relied heavily on freshmen and sophomores.
Among Tech’s losses in conference play have been three 4-3 contests, and the Yellow Jackets’ best wins have come against No. 61 Georgia State and No. 62 North Florida at a time when Hundal was healthy and the Jackets were ranked in the 60s.
Seniors Juan Spir (12-9) and Juan Melian (11-9) have played 1-2 in the Tech lineup all season long. Melian had a hot hand early in the year, winning seven straight matches at one point. Spir got hot at the end of the year, winning six of his last seven, including an upset of the nation’s top-ranked player, Virginia’s Alex Domijan, and is 8-2 in conference play.
Since Hundal was hurt on Feb. 28, sophomore Eduardo Segura (9-13 in dual matches) and freshman Nathan Rakitt have shared time at the No. 3 spot. Rakitt has been a beacon for the future, going 6-4 in ACC matches, 8-4 at the No. 4 spot, while compiling a team-high 22 singles wins.
Hundal, 5-5 in dual matches before he was injured, returned to the lineup at Clemson on April 19. A trio of freshmen and sophomores have struggled in the bottom two spots.
Spir and Hundal went 11-1 in tournament play and captured the USTA/ITA South Regional in the fall, and were 7-2 in dual matches in the spring before Hundal was injured. Since then Tech has struggled to win the doubles point, and only Melian and Rakitt (7-6 at No. 2, 2-1 at No. 1) have remained consistent.
This Weekend’s Opponents
Florida State is ranked No. 34 nationally, just two spots below the position it held when the Seminoles defeated Tech, 4-3, in Atlanta on March 15 to open the conference season. FSU won the doubles point and secured singles wins at 3, 5 and 6. Melian captured a victory at No. 1 over 89th-ranked Dominic Cotrone, while Spir won at No. 2 and Rakitt won at No. 4.
Duke, 21-4 and ranked No. 9 nationally, defeated Tech, 5-2, on the Yellow Jackets’ senior day on April 7 in Atlanta. Spir defeated No. 25 Fred Saba in straight sets that day at No. 1, and Rakitt scored the other Tech point with a straight-set win at No. 3 over Chris Mengel.
For What It’s Worth …
Tech is 4-8 all-time in ACC Championship matches at the Cary Tennis Center. The 2011 ACC championship has been the only time the Yellow Jackets won more than one match at that facility.
Tech is 7-3 this spring when winning the doubles point, including a 1-1 mark in ACC matches.
Tech won the doubles point in seven of its first 10 matches when Hundal and Spir played together and went 7-2 themselves. Since then, Tech has won the doubles point three times (Kennesaw State, Miami, Boston College).
Tech is 10-12 at No. 1 singles this spring, 15-7 at No. 2. The Jackets also have a winning mark (12-7) at No. 4, where freshman Rakitt has played 12 of his matches.