Georgia wins 5th National Title

ATHENS – Georgia tennis coach Manuel Diaz finally can relax and speak freely.

For the last four days here at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, Diaz sidestepped two questions:

Is his team one of the greatest of all time? And, has it mentally rebounded from losing last year's national title match?

On Tuesday, his top-seeded Bulldogs finally unburdened him, completing their perfect season by beating 10th-seeded Illinois 4-0 to win the team's fifth national title.

The shutout was Georgia's 22nd of the season and fifth in six NCAA tournament matches. The Bulldogs (32-0) dropped one team point in the tournament, becoming the fourth team since the format began in 1977 to win the championship while dropping fewer than two team points.

They posted the fifth unbeaten season in NCAA history, winning their matches by a combined score of 174-13.

That dominance led many to wonder aloud if they deserved to be mentioned with the greatest teams in history.

"To be honest, I tried to block it out every time I heard it," Diaz said. "It really got to the point that it got to be annoying because the pressure starts building up, I won't lie.

That question wasn't relevant until right now. … But now I think it's worth asking anyway. These guys have been dominant through by far the toughest schedule we have ever had. We at least deserve to be asking and debating the question."

"Absolutely, I won't lie anymore," Diaz said. "We showed up back here in the fall, and I could tell these guys were still hurting. We had to find something to hold onto and at the same time look in front of us rather than in the rear view mirror."

Matic Omerzel, who lost the decisive match against Pepperdine, won the clincher for Georgia on Tuesday, beating Ruben Gonzales 7-6, 6-1 at No. 4 singles. It was the fifth of the Bulldogs' five titles to be clinched on court four at the Magill Complex.

"The whole summer that (loss to Pepperdine) was haunting me, and I was thinking about it a lot, trying not to but I was, couldn't help it," Omerzel said.

He realized he would get a chance to redeem himself when John Isner, that nation's No. 1 player, closed out a 6-1, 7-6 (1) victory over No. 8 Kevin Anderson to put Georgia ahead 3-0. (Isner tied Al Parker for most wins in Georgia history Tuesday with 138.)

When Isner won, Omerzel was leading 5-1 in the third set and assistant coach Will Glenn's girlfriend signaled to him from the stands that he could be the clincher.

"She was like, ‘That's it, it's on you,'" Omerzel said. "I got goose bumps, that chill in my body. I said, ‘OK, this is it.' Everyone was screaming my name, all the eyes were on me. I just enjoyed it."

Due to an error on the scoreboard at the stadium, Diaz believed that Ormezel had clinched thematch immediately after Isner's win, and he jumped into Isner's arms and interrupted an ongoing match on court three. Fortunately for the Bulldogs, Omerzel closed out his match moments later.

"That was quite embarrassing," Diaz said.

Isner and Omerzel were the only two seniors in the Bulldog lineup this season, and Diazcredited their class with helping the program get through its only rough spot.

They signed with Georgia in 2004, the year after it went 9-15, the only losing season in school history.


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