STANFORD, Calif. — No. 6 seed Georgia defeated 11th-seeded Duke 4-1 on Thursday afternoon, becoming the first team to write its name on the draw for the quarterfinals at Stanford University’s Taube Tennis Center.
Georgia won the doubles point, then had to rebound from four first-set losses in singles on its way to the third-round victory. The Bulldogs improved to 23-5 on the season and ended the year for the Blue Devils at 22-10.
“This was a great match,” said head coach Manuel Diaz. “We played very well. It was a tough match, the doubles point coming down to the wire there. We’re happy we came out with a win. The guys played with a lot of tenacity and fight, and I’m proud of them.”
Georgia has now won 22 of its last 24 NCAA Championships matches and are in the quarterfinal round for the seventh consecutive year.
In doubles, Georgia’s No. 3 doubles team of Drake Bernstein and Wil Spencer defeated Fred Saba and Torsten Wietoska by an 8-5 score, before Duke’s No. 2 pair of David Holland and Chris Mengel edged Sadio Doumbia and Ignacio Taboada 8-4 to even things.
The decider would come at No. 1, where the sixth-ranked team of Javier Garrapiz and Hernus Pieters were battling No. 7 Henrique Cunha and Reid Carleton. At 7-7 after staying on serve all afternoon, the Bulldogs held to take the 8-7 lead and finally got the break when it mattered most, closing with the 9-7 win to secure the doubles point for Georgia for the 21st time in 28 tries in 2011.
The senior Bernstein – playing in front of his parents who made the trip out from Winder, Ga. – was Georgia’s first singles winner of the day and gave Georgia the 2-0 lead with his 6-4, 6-4 victory against Saba at No. 4. Duke cut the lead in half with a win on court three, where Mengel toppled 51st-ranked Doumbia 6-2, 6-4.
But Georgia pulled away again with a win for 13th-ranked Spencer against eighth-ranked Cunha on court one, going 6-4, 6-3 to increase the lead to 3-1.
At that point, courts 2, 5, and 6 were all in third sets with the Bulldogs needing just one for the clinch. It came at No. 6 as Pieters had rebounded from a 6-4 loss in the first set to down Marchese 6-3 in the second, then raced out for a 6-2 win in the third set to seal the third-round win for Georgia.
“I just tried to finish the match,” Pieters said. “I was taking it one point at a time, trying not to get distracted with everything going on. I was able to concentrate and finish. I was upset when I lost the first set. I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing and I let him dominate, but in the middle of the second set and in the third set, I started playing more aggressively.”
Garrapiz and Taboada each had their matches suspended after splitting the first and second sets vs. 13th-ranked Carleton and Wietoska, respectively.
In their 33rd overall NCAA Championships appearance, the Bulldogs improved to 86-27 all-time in the tournament.