As his opponent’s final forehand sailed long, Billy Rowe threw down his racket and his hat and waited for the pack of rapturous Bulldogs to engulf him. Rowe’s dramatic three-set win at No. 6 singles lifted the 12th-ranked Georgia men’s tennis team to a thrilling 4-3 win over No. 14 North Carolina State on Sunday at the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Courts.
“That was incredible,” said Rowe, a graduate transfer from Vanderbilt, after beating the Wolfpack’s Robert Turzak, 6-3, 3-6, 7-5. “The fans were unbelievable, the team was getting loud, and that’s why I came to play here. I want to be in those sorts of situations and help get this team some wins.”
After N.C. State (1-2) took the doubles point, Georgia (3-0) won three straight singles matches. The Wolfpack then picked up a couple of wins to tie the match at 3-all, setting the stage for the finale at No. 6 singles.
At 5-5 in the third set, Rowe held serve easily to take a 6-5 lead. At 15-all on Turzak’s serve, Rowe forced an error after a long rally. At 15-30, Rowe kept his opponent pinned into the left corner and then came in and won the point with a volley winner. Now with three match points, Rowe only needed one. The two exchanged some hard groundstrokes before Turzak’s forehand went long and the Bulldogs had the hard-fought victory.
“I think this match is going to do great things for us because we played tremendous tennis in three singles spots to get to the edge, and then it got tough. And we showed some toughness to close it out,” Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz said.
In doubles, the Wolfpack took a 1-0 lead after its No. 2 team of Alexis Galarneau and Turzak edged Blake Croyder and Rowe in a tiebreaker to clinch the point. The Wolfpack got up a break early in the set before the Bulldogs rallied and tied the match at 5-all. In the tiebreaker, N.C. State built an early lead and closed it out for a 7-6 (7-4) win.
In the other two doubles matches, Georgia’s No. 3 duo of Philip Henning and Erik Grevelius made quick work of Yannai Barkai and Braden Shick, winning 6-2. N.C. State’s Tadas Babelis and Robin Catry got up a break early on Georgia’s Trent Bryde and Tyler Zink, the No. 8 doubles team in the ITA preseason rankings, and held on to win, 6-4.
The singles matches featured a much-anticipated Top-10 battle at No. 1, where Georgia’s No. 9-ranked Bryde took on N.C. State’s No. 7-ranked Galarneau. Bryde got a break of serve to go up 4-2 in the opening set and then got another to win it, 6-2. In the second, Galarneau got up early and pulled away to win it 6-1, forcing a third. The two went back and forth in the final set and were tied 5-5 before Bryde captured the final two games for the 6-2, 1-6, 7-5 victory, which put Georgia ahead 3-1.
Bryde and Galarneau used to play doubles together in some junior events.
“To be able to play him today on such a big stage in college tennis obviously meant a lot,” Bryde said. “He’s having a phenomenal year, the past six months have been amazing for him, and I’m just really happy and lucky to get through today.”
It was at No. 4 singles that Georgia tied the match at 1-all, with Croyder’s 6-2, 6-3 win over Babelis. Zink had to work a lot harder at No. 3 singles to put the Bulldogs ahead 2-1, rallying after dropping the first set and beating Barkai, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4.
N.C. State cut Georgia’s lead to 3-2 at No. 5 singles, where Catry took down Baptiste Anselmo, 6-2, 6-2. The Wolfpack tied the match at 3-all with a win at No. 2 singles, where Rafa Izquierdo Luque won a back-and-forth tussle with Henning, 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5.
With the match knotted 3-3, it all came down to Rowe versus Turzak at No. 6.
“I’m glad Billy got to experience clinching for the Bulldogs because it’s the best experience in life,” Bryde said. “I’m so glad that he pulled it out. It was a close one and we got it done, so I’m super happy with everyone and how everyone fought. I couldn’t be happier.”
The Bulldogs return to action on Friday, Feb. 5, when they host Georgia Tech at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex at 2:30 p.m.
For more information on the Bulldogs, go to Georgiadogs.com. You can also get updates on the team via Twitter (@UGATennis) and Instagram (@ugatennis).
No. 12 Georgia 4, No. 14 N.C. State 3
1. Tadas Babelis/Robin Catry (NC State) def. Trent Bryde/Tyler Zink (UGA), 6-4
2. Alexis Galarneau/Robert Turzak (NC State) def. Billy Rowe/Blake Croyder (UGA), 7-6 (7-4)
3. Philip Henning/Erik Grevelius (UGA) def. Yannai Barkai/Braden Shick (NC State), 6-2
1. Trent Bryde (UGA) def. Alexis Galarneau (NC State), 6-2, 1-6, 7-5
2. Rafa Izquierdo Luque (NC State) def. Philip Henning (UGA), 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 7-5
3. Tyler Zink (UGA) def. Yannai Barkai (NC State), 3-6, 6-3, 6-4
4. Blake Croyder (UGA) def. Tadas Babelis (NC State), 6-2, 6-3
5. Robin Catry (NC State) def. Baptiste Anselmo (UGA), 6-2, 6-2
6. Billy Rowe (UGA) vs. Robert Turzak (NC State), 6-3, 3-6, 7-5
Order of Finish
Doubles: 3, 1, 2
Singles: 4, 3, 1, 5, 2, 6