In down-to-the-wire fashion, Georgia graduate Billy Rowe carried No. 11 Georgia to a 4-3 victory over the sixth-ranked North Carolina Tarheels Monday afternoon at the USTA National Campus to advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals. This marks the 32nd quarterfinal appearance in program history for the Bulldogs.
“Our team came to fight,” Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz said. “They knew it wasn’t going to be easy. North Carolina is a great team. We have great friends over there in the coaching staff. We knew North Carolina was going to come out and give us its best shot, and we have a lot of respect for their team. For us, it was a matter of coming out and being ready to be challenged at every spot. We did a great job at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles, and that doubles point was really crucial. Our team really just responded to the challenge that North Carolina put forth in singles, and I could not be more proud.”
While the day ended in a battle, the match started in much the same way. In doubles, the Tarheels maintained the lead at the top court for the entire match. Meanwhile at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles, back-and-forth contests ensued, ultimately ending in Georgia’s favor.
North Carolina’s third-ranked team of William Blumberg and Brian Cernoch ousted No. 7 Georgia pair Trent Bryde and Tyler Zink, 6-1, to start off doubles play. However, the Bulldogs maintained their resolve at the No. 2 and No. 3 courts.
At No. 3, Georgia duo Philip Henning and Erik Grevelius led for the majority of their match against Tarheels Rinky Hijikata and Ben Sigouin. While Hijikata and Sigouin managed to tie the match at 4-all, Henning and Grevelius surged back to take a 6-4 win, leaving the doubles decision up to the middle court. There, 54th-ranked Bulldogs Blake Croyder and Billy Rowe sealed the doubles point in a tiebreaker. The pair ousted the Tarheels Mac Kiger and Simon Soendergaard, ranked No. 58 in ITA doubles rankings, 7-6 (7-2).
Georgia and North Carolina split singles wins. No. 19 Henning grabbed the Dogs’ first singles win of the day at No. 3 with a 6-3, 6-4 victory over the Tarheels’ No. 56 Sigouin. The next two wins went to the Tarheels; North Carolina’s Cernoch, ranked No. 60 in ITA doubles, grabbed a three-set win over Georgia’s Croyder (4-6, 6-2, 6-4), while 24th-ranked Tarheel Hijikata used a second-set tiebreaker to oust No. 15 Zink (6-3, 7-6 (7-2).
At the bottom court, the Bulldogs’ Grevelius beat Soendergaard, 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 to give Georgia the 3-2 lead. However, at the opposite end of the court, No. 35-ranked Blumberg (North Carolina) evened out the score with his 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) victory over Georgia’s top-ranked Bryde (No. 15).
The win came down to Rowe at No. 5 singles. After taking his first set over UNC’s Josh Peck in a tiebreaker, Rowe’s grit carried over into the second set as he was able to take a 4-2 lead. Peck, however, was not going down without a fight, holding serve at one point to make it 5-4 in the second set, with Georgia leading. Rowe responded in the same fashion in the next game, holding serve for the 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 win and the Georgia clinch. This marks Rowe’s fourth clinch of the season against a ranked opponent.
Next, the No. 11 Bulldogs take on No. 3 Tennessee Thursday, May 20, in the 2021 NCAA Men’s Tennis Quarterfinals. Match time is to be determined.
NCAA ROUND OF 16 RESULTS: #11 Georgia (17-6) vs. #6 North Carolina (21-4)
1.#3 William Blumberg/Brian Cernoch (UNC) def. #7 Trent Bryde/Tyler Zink (UGA) 6-1
2.#54 Blake Croyder/Billy Rowe (UGA) def. #58 Mac Kiger/Simon Soendergaard (UNC) 7-6 (7-2)
3.Philip Henning/Erik Grevelius (UGA) def. Rinky Hijikata/Ben Sigouin (UNC), 6-4
1. #35 William Blumberg (UNC) def. #15 Trent Bryde (UGA) 6-2, 7-6 (7-5)
2. #24 Rinky Hijikata (UNC) def. #27 Tyler Zink (UGA) 6-3, 7-6 (7-2)
3.#19 Philip Henning (UGA) def. #56 Benjamin Sigouin (UNC) 6-3, 6-4
4. #60 Brian Cernoch (UNC) def. Blake Croyder (UGA) 4-6, 6-2, 6-4
5.Billy Rowe (UGA) def. Josh Peck (UNC) 7-6 (8-6), 6-4
6.Erik Grevelius (UGA) def. Simon Soendergaard (UNC) 7-6 (7-3), 6-1