The UGA men’s tennis team’s Robert Loeb and Jan Zielinski fell to Oklahoma’s Spencer Papa and Andrew Harris in the finals of the NCAA Doubles Championship Monday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.
The Bulldog duo, the tournament’s top seed, took the first set, 6-4, but were unable to win the second frame before falling 10-6 in the 10-point match tiebreaker. Loeb and Zielinski represented Georgia’s sixth all-time appearance in the championship match of the doubles tournament, which comes on the heels of the Bulldogs’ run to the semifinals of the team event last week.
“We were impressive in the first set,” said Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz, “but we showed our inexperience a little bit and we became a little bit tentative. Robert never returned well today, but he’s been very strong in that area all year. Once Jan got broken [at 2-1], we kind of got swept. [Oklahoma’s] momentum and energy just warped us a little bit. I kept hoping we could make a little stand there, but we just seemed to never recover after that.”
The Bulldogs started the match out with a break in the first game, taking a 1-0 lead on Oklahoma’s service game. Each game in the first set from then on was a service hold, and with Loeb serving for the set, Zielinski split the Sooner players with a shot at the net to put it away.
The second set also began with a Georgia break after Loeb and Zielinski trailed 40-30 in the game, but came back to win it and take another 1-0 lead. Oklahoma got the set back on-serve with a shot through Loeb’s legs to tie it at 2-2 and held the next game to take a 3-2 lead. In the following game, with Loeb serving, Oklahoma jumped out to a 0-30 lead, but Georgia took the next three points to make it 40-30. After Zielinski hit one long, Loeb put one into the net and Oklahoma went ahead, 4-2.
The Sooners would eventually win the second set, 6-2, and the match went to the 10-point tiebreaker. The first mini-break came with the score tied 1-1 when Oklahoma took a 2-1 advantage and held serve on the next two points to make it 4-1. After a back-and-forth effort on the next few points, Oklahoma took a 9-4 lead. Georgia saved two match points on Zielinski’s serve but was unable to break Oklahoma’s serve before falling 10-6.
As just a freshman and sophomore, Loeb and Zielinski first cracked the top-10 of the doubles rankings on March 21, when they were ranked 8th. They entered the tournament as the No. 1 pair in the country, and finish the season with a 4-0 record against duos ranked in the top-five.