The UGA men’s tennis sophomore Emil Reinberg and freshman Nathan Ponwith both advanced to the Round of 32 in the NCAA Singles Championship and will take the courts at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex to see if their rackets can take them one step closer to a championship.
Reinberg, who received second-team All-SEC honors and was named 2017 SEC Tournament MVP, had four match points in the second set before securing the win over 7th-seeded Di Feo. Di Feo, listed ninth in the most recent rankings, represents the highest-ranked opponent Reinberg has beaten to this point in his career.
“That felt pretty good,” said Reinberg, who is currently ranked 59th. “Coming back from the team tournament and losing a tough one to UNC, I took the day off and then came out here with no pressure. I think that’s what helped me the most. I think I held my mind pretty well after losing the second set and having four match points on my serve. Competing is what I do, so I’m excited about it.”
The Atlanta native won the first set, 6-3, and opened up a 3-0 lead in the second set. In the next game, Reinberg gave a break back, and the next five games after that were holds. Serving for the match up 5-4, Reinberg dropped his only match point of the game, the no-ad point. He then broke in the next game and served for the match again, up 6-5. He took a 40-15 lead, but then surrendered the next three points and went to a tiebreaker. Di Feo cruised through the tiebreaker, but Reinberg won the third set, 6-3, to secure the victory.
With his win, Ponwith becomes the first Georgia freshman since Matias Boeker in 2000 to win at least one match in the singles tournament. Boeker, who lost in the second round in 2000, went on to win the next two NCAA Singles Championships (2001, 2002).
“His opponent played absolutely incredible in that first set,” said Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz, “but Nathan just found a way to win. I’m proud of the guys.”
Ponwith dropped his opening set, 6-2, and fell behind early in the second set to Southern Illinois’s Piotr Baranski. He battled back to take the second set, winning 6-4, before eventually going to a third-set tiebreaker against Baranski, the 89th-ranked player in the country. After taking a 3-2 lead in the tiebreaker, Ponwith won four of the next five points to win the match.
Wayne Montgomery also was in action Wednesday, falling 6-1, 7-5 to the No. 8 seed, Tom Fawcett of Stanford. Montgomery battled hard in the second set and got ahead, 5-4, before dropping the next three games. The junior from Somerset West, South Africa has now played in the individual singles tournament all three years he has been at Georgia.
On Thursday, Reinberg and Ponwith will compete in the Round of 32 of the singles tournament, while Robert Loeb and Jan Zielinski will enter the Round of 32 in the doubles tournament as the top seed. In singles action, Reinberg will play Jolan Cailleau from Texas Tech, while Ponwith will take on Wake Forest’s Borna Gojo. Loeb and Zielinski will play Di Feo and Martin Joyce from Ohio State. Reinberg’s match is set for 9:00 a.m. ET this morning while Ponwith’s is scheduled for 10:00 a.m.