The Next Step

The number one ranked men's tennis team begins their season on Sunday with a match with William and Mary. Last season they were undefeated until the finals when they lost to Pepperdine. This year the team looks like to could be even better. This week I talked to head coach Manuel Diaz who enters his 19th season with a record of 404-93. This is what he said about this year's team.

Dave McMahon -- The way the season ended last season and the potential this team has, it is fair to say that anything less than a national championship may be a disappointment?

Manuel Diaz -- Honestly it wouldn't be fair to say anything. I am very pleased on how this team has come together so far... they had a very good fall... this team is very poised and they set their sights high.

DM -- What is the differences of this year's team and last year's team?

MD -- We have 6 new players, 5 freshmen and a transfer so we have many new components to this team, but we have a lot of strength coming back.

DM -- John Isner is the #2 ranked player in the nation... last year he went back-and-forth from #1 and #2 ranked... what does he need to do to be the number one ranked player?

MD -- Win the NCAA's. Really when you are number 2, there is a very small window to be able to move up. He just needs to continue what has been doing.

DM -- What does it say when a player like Travis Helgeson, who is one of the nation's best players transfers from a good school like Texas to join Georgia?

MD -- It says we have a whole lot to offer. He might not have been comfortable with something at his old school and now he gets to work with a new staff.

DM -- Would it be fair to say that players like Travis and Luis Flores can play at #1's at almost every school in the nation?

MD -- I met with all 3 of them (add John Isner) and told them we have 3 number one players and I could not find more agreeable players and they don't care where they play as long as the team wins.

DM -- What does Luis Flores do so well?

MD -- He has tremendous excelleration. His first step is the most explosive first step in the nation. He makes you earn any point you can get from him.

DM -- Freshman Jamie Hunt looks like he can be a real force to?

MD -- Him and Nate Schnugg are both capable of a lot. In the fall, Nate beat the #1 player from Mississippi State and Jamie beat the #2 player from Ole Miss.

DM -- What other teams from the SEC should we look out for?

MD -- Ole Miss is as good as us. LSU has a great squad this year and then there is Florida and Tennessee.

DM -- How great is it that the NCAA's are back here in Athens?

MD -- We are looking forward to it. This is the best atmosphere in college tennis. Last time it was here we were not in the tournament.

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