Georgia’s sixth-ranked men’s tennis team will play for its 10th Southeastern Conference tournament title and its 40th overall SEC Championship on Sunday after the Bulldogs downed Mississippi State, 4-1, Saturday in the semifinals of the 2016 SEC Tournament.
The win sets up a clash of the top two seeds in this year’s tourney. Sunday’s contest, which will start at Noon ET and will be available on the WatchESPN app, will feature No. 1 overall seed Georgia and No. 2 seed Florida.
Saturday’s triumph marks Georgia’s 16th-straight victory of the season and improves the team’s record to 20-3 and a perfect 14-0 against SEC opponents. Florida, which boasts a 17-6 record and 12-2 SEC mark, enters the championship match ranked 11th in the country.
“I thought we came out well prepared today,” head coach Manuel Diaz said. “We played exceptionally well in doubles and we came out ready to fight in singles. I take my hat off to Mississippi State. They were tenacious, gritty and tough at all positions. We had Emil come in at six and do a tremendous job there. Austin Smith was clicking on all cylinders. I’m just proud of this team for fighting and for giving us a win today.”
Georgia was dominant in doubles, led by the duo of Paul Oosterbaan and Jan Zielinski, who picked up the first win of the day with a 6-2 victory at the No. 2 court. Minutes later, the Bulldogs’ seventh-ranked tandem of Smith and Ben Wagland clinched the doubles point with a 6-3 victory at the top position.
Up 1-0 heading to singles play, 17th-ranked Smith quickly gave the Bulldogs a 2-0 advantage thanks to 6-0, 6-1 win over MSU’s 33rd-ranked Mate Cutura at the top position.
Smith’s strong performance set the tone for the Bulldogs as Georgia’s Reinberg battled for a 6-1,6-4 victory at the No. 6 court to put his team up 3-0. Even with the early lead, the Bulldogs fought off a strong surge by fourth-seeded Mississippi State as MSU picked up a win at court No. 3 to cut the lead to 3-1.
With matches at the four and five courts both in the third set, all the focus turned to Montgomery at No. 2. The South Africa native came up clutch, winning a tie-breaker first set, before clinching the match with a 7-6 (1), 6-4 victory.
Montgomery’s clincher sets up an exciting match on Sunday between the Bulldogs and Gators. Georgia, which has won four-straight regular season titles, is looking for its first SEC tournament crown since 2013, while Florida is in search of its fifth SEC tournament title and first since 2011.
Fans can watch Sunday’s championship game by following this link: CLICK HERE TO WATCH SEC MEN’S TENNIS CHAMPIONSHIPS
2016 SEC MEN’S TENNIS TOURNAMENT
(Carolina Tennis Center)
#6 (1) Georgia defeated #25 (4) Mississippi State (4-1)
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1); Singles (1,6,3,2)
1. #17 Austin Smith (UGA) def. #33 Mate Cutura (MSU) 6-0, 6-1
2. #35 Wayne Montgomery (UGA) def. #60 Rishab Agarwal (MSU) 7-6 (7-1), 6-4
3. #98 Nuno Borges (MSU) def. #96 Paul Oosterbaan (UGA) 6-4, 7-5
4. Walker Duncan (UGA) vs. Niclas Braun (MSU) 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 0-3, unfinished
5. Nick Wood (UGA) vs. Strahinja Rakic (MSU) 6-7 (4-7), 6-1, 3-2, unfinished
6. Emil Reinberg (UGA) def. Luka Sucevic (MSU) 6-1, 6-4
1. #7 Austin Smith/Ben Wagland (UGA) def. #45 Vaughn Hunter/Mate Cutura (MSU) 6-3
2. Paul Oosterbaan/Jan Zielinski (UGA) def. Niclas Braun/Trevor Foshey (MSU) 6-2
3. Wayne Montgomery/Emil Reinberg (UGA) vs. Rishab Agarwal/Nuno Borges (MSU) 5-3, unfinished