The preseason No. 7-ranked UGA men’s tennis team spent time with media on Tuesday previewing the upcoming spring season, which begins with the indoor portion of the schedule this weekend at the MLK Invitational in Atlanta.
Georgia will begin play at 10 a.m. on Saturday at the Ken Byers Tennis Complex. The event features four ranked teams with the seventh-ranked Bulldogs joined by No. 2 Oklahoma, No. 19 Ole Miss and No. 43 Georgia Tech. No team scores will be recorded, but singles and doubles champions will be crowned based on the round robin results.
This is the third-straight year Georgia has competed in the MLK Invitational, which marks the beginning of the indoor season. In addition to Saturday’s action, the Bulldogs will play at 2 p.m. on Sunday and again on Monday at 10 a.m.
Georgia’s 2016 roster features five ranked singles players with Wayne Montgomery leading the way at No. 20, followed by Austin Smith at No. 28, Paul Oosterbaan at No. 40, Nick Wood at No. 88 and Walker Duncan at No. 105. Oosterbaan’s No. 40 ranking is the first career ranking for him.
In doubles, the tandem of Smith and Ben Wagland are ranked No. 10, while Montgomery and Emil Reinberg are ranked 45th.
Following action this weekend, Georgia will host the ITA Kickoff Weekend on Jan. 23-24. The Bulldogs will open the event against UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 23 at 1 p.m. ET.
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Below are quotes from Georgia head coach Manuel Diaz and Georgia players from Tuesday’s media session.
Head Coach Manuel Diaz
On his team’s preseason rankings…
“I think that our guys are excited about the season. I try to get our guys not to look at the rankings too much. The rankings are, for the moment, based on last year’s results. It’s going to be a little while until we go to a computerized ranking and that will be a little more accurate as the season moves along. It won’t be until the end of March or so until those rankings are really reflective of what we do. We’re trying to get our guys to focus on working hard and getting the most out of each day here. We’re excited. We have our first tournament coming up at Georgia Tech, the Martin Luther King Classic. We’re looking for some great competition. Oklahoma, Ole Miss and Georgia Tech will be there, so it will be our last individual tournament of the year until we get to the NCAA singles and doubles championships at the very end. That will be a final tune up until we head into team competition and that’s the exciting part of the season. I think that everyone is looking forward to it.”
On how the team has prepared for the MLK Invitational…
“It’s been a while since we got them on the court and were able to work with them. They all concluded their fall season at the beginning or middle of November. They finished very well academically. I’m really proud of our guys in that regard. They have been on their own all the way until they got here and got situated. Our official practice begins tomorrow. They’re hitting on their own and have been very conscientious and expressing their goals and aspirations. They have been really well motivated from what I can see. We’re going into our first event here this weekend with very little practice other than what they did for themselves. This is going to show us what they have been doing for the last month and a half or so and I’m excited about that.”
On the new players who have joined the team…
“We have two new members. First we have Jan Zielinski, our Polish boy. And Alex Phillips who is from Peachtree City. They are both tremendous kids who have tremendous potential. Our plan right now is to redshirt Alex Phillips. He is our signee for the fall, he just enrolled early. We’re excited to have him. He’s going to be working on himself. We’re going to get him in the weight room. We have great plans for him, we just don’t plan to use a year of eligibility for him this year. Jan is adjusting very well and has come a long way. He is a wonderful addition to this years’ squad and I expect him to contribute both in singles and doubles.”
Senior Austin Smith
On his ranking in doubles…
“I think that from last season we just have the confidence that if we just play the game and do what we know we are capable of doing that we feel like we can beat just about anyone in the country on any day, but we have to go out there and show up everyday and you know anyone can beat us on the same day. It’s short and it’s quick and a point here or there can really make all the difference.”
On helping team USA to a title in France…
“It’s good, just being able to end the fall on that note and being able to represent the United States is always cool, and to get the win, hoping to carry that pattern over to the season.”
Redshirt Sophomore Paul Oosterbaan
On what he is looking forward to…
“It’s nice to have a year of experience under me and I have gotten the chance to play at most of the places where we are going to play this year. Since I‘ve seen it one time around it should be even better than last year, so looking forward to a big year.”
On what the team has been working on…
“I think we are all just working to become closer and to get the team’s mindset ready for the season. We are all just pumped to get out there.”
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