ATHENS –- By Georgia’s lofty tennis standards, this was something of an off season – a 17-7 regular-season record and a No. 11 seed in the NCAA tournament. But look at the Bulldogs now, right back where they so often are at this time of year.
Georgia dominated Oklahoma 4-0 Sunday in an NCAA men’s quarterfinal match at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex to reach the national semifinals for the fourth time in the past five seasons.
“I’d been telling these guys — and they were probably a little bit tired of me saying it — that we hadn’t played our best yet,” Georgia coach Manuel Diaz said. “I knew our best tennis was still ahead of us. And they’re proving me right.”
The Bulldogs (21-7) will play Tennessee (30-1) at 5 p.m. Monday for a berth in Tuesday’s national championship match. Tennessee defeated Baylor 4-0 in a Sunday quarterfinal.
In Monday’s other men’s semifinal, No. 1 seed Virginia (30-1) will play defending champion USC (23-3) at 4 p.m. Virginia defeated UCLA 4-2 and USC blanked Ohio State 4-0 on Sunday.
The women’s semifinals, also Monday, will match Florida (28-2) vs. North Carolina (30-4) at 1 p.m. and Stanford (24-1) vs. Notre Dame (27-3) at 2 p.m.
Oklahoma’s men, coached by former Georgia All-American player John Roddick, pulled off a big upset Friday by beating No. 3 seed Texas. But the Sooners (19-8) were no match for the Bulldogs, who thrived before a loud, lively crowd of 2,410, almost all of them UGA fans.
Georgia won the doubles point for a 1-0 lead, then took firm command by claiming the first set on five of the six singles courts. A quick 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 4 singles by Drake Bernstein gave Georgia a 2-0 lead and was followed by a sharp 6-2, 6-1 win at No. 3 singles by Jamie Hunt and a clinching 6-4, 6-2 victory at No. 1 by Javier Garrapiz, who prevailed on his sixth match point of the final game.
“I’ve got to think they’re playing about as well as they can play,” Roddick said of the Bulldogs. “If they keep playing like that, they can do some great things here.”
Now the Dogs move on to face a Tennessee team that beat them 6-1 in Knoxville on April 17.
“Tennessee is a great team, but we’re going to come ready to play,” Hunt said. “I told the guys that with this crowd I feel unbeatable. Our team feels unbeatable with that kind of crowd support. We’re just playing very, very inspired tennis.”
The crowd made an impression on Roddick, who played for the Bulldogs from 1995-98.
“I guess when you’re wearing the red and black, you don’t notice how loud it is until you’re hearing them cheer against you,” Roddick said. “It was louder than I remembered.”
Georgia has won six NCAA championships in men’s tennis –- all since 1985, four since 1999 and two in the past three seasons.
“I’m just pleased that we are in the Final Four again,” Diaz said. “It’s no secret that we might not be the deepest, most talented team in the country this year.”