LEXINGTON, Ky. – Florida’s five-year reign as the Southeastern Conference Women’s Tennis Tournament champion came to an end on Sunday, when the second-seeded Gators lost to top-seeded Georgia, 4-2, in the final of the league’s postseason event held at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
The Gators (21-2) appeared to have all the momentum on their side during the doubles portion of the competition, but the Bulldogs (21-1) staged a terrific comeback and seized the all-important point and carried that wave of confidence onto the singles courts, where they captured victories on the No. 1, 4 and 5 courts to win their fourth SEC Tournament crown and their first since 2001.
Florida, which was making its 19th appearance in the final in the
20-year history of the event, did not take home the championship for just the fifth time.
Both of Florida’s losses this season have been to Georgia, which also captured the 4-3 regular-season decision on March 11th in Athens, using the doubles point to earn the win.
Florida now awaits the announcement of the NCAA Championship 64-team field that will be made on May 1 at 2:30 p. m. ESPNews will broadcast the field, during when the NCAA Committee also reveals the 16 host sites and the dates the first and second rounds will be played at each sub-regional.
Florida seemed to be in control of the crucial doubles point, earning the win on court No. 2 before Georgia claimed the No. 3 spot. The Bulldogs dug deep and the Gators tightened, as Florida committed several unforced errors that eventually turned the momentum and resulted in Georgia capturing the first point of the dual match.
The Gators’ No. 1 tandem of Csilla Borsanyi and Diana Srebrovic roared out to a 5-1 lead with two breaks against Yvette Hyndman and Darya Ivanov. Ivanov held to cut UF’s lead to 5-2 and spark a run of five straight games, as the Bulldogs evened the match and took a 6-5 advantage. Borsanyi then held her serve, fighting off two break points to tie the score at 6-all. Hyndman lost just one point on her serve, placing the pressure back Srebrovic to keep the match alive. The Florida pair held one game-point, but couldn’t finish and the Bulldogs sealed the doubles point on their second match-point opportunity.
The setback was just the first of the year for the team of Borsanyi and Srebrovic, who dropped to 6-1 on the season, while the Gators lost the doubles point for the fourth time this year, including the second time to Georgia.
“Doubles was a huge part of today’s match, but I challenged our players after the doubles point to come back and play like we had won the doubles point and I don’t think we did that on all the singles courts and that cost us today,” Florida head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “Not all six players of our players were able to put the doubles loss behind them and it ultimately cost us.
“I have to congratulate Georgia, they showed that they were tougher today,” Thornqvist continued. “They had a little bit more than we did. They have a heck of a team.”
Florida and Georgia matched each other on every singles court, with neither able to string together multiple games. Instead, is was a late break on all six courts that proved the difference, as the Gators claimed the opening frame at the No. 3 and 6 spots, while the Bulldogs gained control on the remaining four.
Senior Whitney Benik won her third singles match of the tournament, defeating Naoko Ueshima, 6-3, 6-2, at the No. 6 position and evening the team scoring at 1-all. The match was on-serve through six games, before Benik broke through and won the final three games to take the first set. The first four games of the second set were breaks, before Benik held and earned another break en route to the straight-set win.
Georgia’s sixth-ranked Natalie Frazier then got the best of 21st-ranked Diana Srebrovic, 6-4, 6-1, giving the Bulldogs the 2-1 lead. The first set was a battle, with four breaks peppered early in the opening frame before Frazier earned the important break in the ninth game and served out for the first set. She then broke Srebrovic twice in the first three games of the second set, riding those to a 3-0 lead and later the win.
At the two-hour mark, Megan Alexander won the tough battle against Yvette Hyndman, 6-4, 7-6 (2) to even the team score at 2-all. The Gator freshman earned the lone break in the entire match in the 10th game of the opening set, breaking Hyndman to claim the first frame. Neither competitor relinquished her serve in the second set, as a tiebreaker ensued. Hyndman earned a mini-break to start the breaker and held to take a 2-0 lead. But Alexander ripped off the next seven points to earn the straight-set win.
Csilla Borsanyi squared off against Darya Ivanov on court No. 5, where the two split sets before the Bulldogs zipped through the deciding third to claim the 6-4, 6-7 (1), 6-1 victory that gave Georgia a 3-2 lead. The match was on-serve before Ivanov broke the Gator rookie in the 10th game to take the opening set. Borsanyi emerged with an early one-break lead midway through the second before Ivanov earned a break in the 10th game, with a tiebreaker later needed to decide the set. Borsanyi ripped through the breaker, 7-1, and appeared to have the momentum, but Ivanov dug deep and came through with the decision.
Nina Suvak and Kelley Hyndman challenged each other at the No. 4 spot, where Georgia eventually clinched the dual match win with a 7-5, 7-5 decision. Hyndman broke the Gator senior in the 12th game to take the first set, but Suvak roared out to a 3-0 lead behind two breaks. Neither competitor was able to hold in the next three games, as Suvak still held a 4-3 lead with a break advantage. Again, the next three games were breaks, with Hyndman emerging on top and getting the set back on-serve before breaking Suvak on final time to earn the win in two hours and 36 minutes.
On court No. 2, freshman Anastasia Revzina tried to extend her 13-match win streak, battling 34th-ranked Monika Dancevic. The match was on-serve entering the 11th game, but Dancevic earned the late break and held to take the opening set, 7-5. The Bulldog then built a 5-2 lead in the second and was serving with several match points, but the Gator rookie fought back, eventually earning the break and winning four straight games. Revzina, however, was unable to hold in the 11th game, sending Dancevic to serve for the match again. Once more, Revzina fought off a couple match points and broke to force a tiebreak. She held a 5-2 lead with two serves coming when play was abandoned since Georgia clinched the team win.