set to begin in Athens, Ga.
Chris Starrs | May 17, 2017
ATHENS, Ga. – For many in the college tennis community, the home of the NCAA Championships is the Dan Magill Tennis Complex on the campus of the University of Georgia. In the first 23 years the tournament was held, play took place in Athens 20 times. And if you’re scoring at home, the 2017 tournament represents the 32nd time Georgia’s Classic City has played host.
The NCAAs begin Thursday, May 18, with the men’s team competition. The women’s team competition is set to begin Friday, May 19.
“It has meant a lot to our community for so long,” said Georgia men’s coach Manny Diaz, who played for the No. 13-seeded Bulldogs from 1972-75 and was named head coach in 1988 upon the retirement of the legendary Magill. “When you have it every year, you can build on it a little bit more.”
Diaz, the 2017 Southeastern Conference Men’s Coach of the Year and coach of national championship teams in 1999, 2001, 2007 and 2008, doesn’t necessarily see hosting the tournament as providing his charges with a home-court advantage. ADVERTISEMENT But he firmly believes the Bulldogs – who face No. 4 Southern California Thursday in the round of 16 – will be in the title mix.
“Certainly the guys want to make the most out of every opportunity,” Diaz said. “The guys don’t try any harder than they do anywhere else. Every year we set out to win a championship – that’s our goal and that’s our standard, and this year won’t be any different.”
Virginia and Southern California have enjoyed a stranglehold on the men’s championship trophy over the last eight years, with the Cavaliers winning in 2013, 2015 and 2016, and the Trojans winning in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014.
Although top-ranked Wake Forest has been a perennial NCAA participant, having played in the tournament 15 times, the Demon Deacons have never so much as finished fourth. This could be the year for Wake Forest, however, as the Deacons enter the NCAAs ranked No. 1 with a 29-2 record and a perfect 11-0 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Also expected to finish at or near the top are No. 2 Virginia (30-1), No. 3 Ohio State (31-3), No. 4 USC (27-5) and No. 5 UCLA (21-5).
“You’ve got your top-ranked team and No. 1 seed, certainly slight favorites, but I truly believe there are 10 or so teams that have an opportunity to win the tournament,” Diaz said. “We won it in 1999 as a No. 10 seed, so it’s a goal that’s on our minds, and it’s achievable.”
On the women’s side, there’s a little more variety. No. 7 Stanford has captured three titles in the last seven years, in 2010, 2013 and 2016. Florida won in 2011 and 2012, Duke was victorious in 2009, UCLA won in 2014 and Vanderbilt earned the crown in 2015.
The top-ranked Gators (25-3) are in place to win their third women’s title in the last five years, but there’s not much question No. 2 Ohio State (30-2), No. 3 Vanderbilt (22-5), No. 4 North Carolina (32-2), No. 5 Georgia (19-5) and No. 6 Stanford (23-2) will have something to say about the eventual outcome.
The 2017 tournament ends on Tuesday, May 23, with the men’s final set for 1 p.m., followed by the women’s final, scheduled for 5 p.m. After the team finals, singles play begins at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, May 24, with doubles play set to begin on Thursday, May 25.
TCU’s Cameron Norrie is the No. 1 seed in men’s singles, followed by Mikael Torpegaard of Ohio State, Illinois’ Aleks Vukic, Nuno Borges of Mississippi State and Petros Chrysochos of Wake Forest.
Francesca Di Lorenzo of Ohio State enters the women’s singles tournament ranked No. 1 in the country and has to be one of the favorites, along with North Carolina’s Hayley Carter, Baylor’s Blair Shankle, Astra Sharma of Vanderbilt and Ena Shibahara of UCLA.
In 2019, the format for the NCAAs will change, with the introduction of “super regionals,” similar to those in baseball and softball. Unchanged will be the 16 regional sites, but after the first round, play will take place at eight super regional locales (for men and women), with eight teams advancing to the final site.
ROUND OF 16 SCHEDULE:
Men - Thursday, May 18, 2017
9 a.m. – No. 2 Virginia vs. No. 15 Florida
9 a.m. – No. 7 Baylor vs. No. 10 Texas
Noon – No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 14 Oklahoma
Noon – No. 6 TCU vs. Illinois
4 p.m. – No. 4 USC vs. No. 13 Georgia
4 p.m. – No. 6 UCLA vs. 12 Texas A&M
7 p.m. – No. 8 California vs. No. 9 California
7 p.m. – No. 1 Wake Forest vs. 16 Stanford
Women - Friday, May 19, 2017
9 a.m. – No. 2 North Carolina vs. No. 15 Duke
9 a.m. – No. 7 Stanford vs. No. 10 Michigan
Noon – No. 6 Texas Tech vs. No. 11 Auburn
Noon – No. 3 Ohio State vs. No. 14 South Carolina
4 p.m. – No. 5 Georgia vs. No. 12 Pepperdine
4 p.m. – No. 4 Vanderbilt vs. No. 13 California
7 p.m. – No. 1 Florida vs. Texas A&M
7 p.m. – No. 8 Georgia Tech vs. No. 9 Oklahoma State
The NCAA Tennis Championships will be broadcast live on ESPNU. Click here for more.
(Photo courtesy of the University of Florida)