Jackets take early lead, but fall late against Bulldogs

Senior Andres Martin prepares to serve on Court One against Georgia’s Thomas Paulsell in one of the weekend’s best matches. Last spring, he finished with the No. 9 singles ranking in the nation. // Photo courtesy of Caitlin Aycock Student Publcations

A historic rivalry added a new chapter when the 7-1 Jackets’ men’s tennis team headed to Athens to take on the No. 20 ranked Georgia men’s tennis team in a display of Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate. The Jackets held their own throughout the contest, but ultimately were not able to close the game out over their bitter rivals.

The Jackets got off to a strong start by clinching the doubles point. Considering Georgia’s perfect streak in the doubles point this season, this was certainly an initial setback for the Bulldogs. Wins by the Jackets’ pairs of seniors Keshav Chopra and Marcus McDaniel and junior Gabriele Brancatelli and senior Andres Martin built an early advantage for the away team. McDaniels and Chopra’s win was especially masterful as the pair showcased their incredible chemistry. 

McDaniel is a reigning International Tennis Association (ITA) Doubles All-American, and his composure and tactical acumen were critical against Georgia’s talented freshman duo of Niels Ratiu and Freddy Blaydes. The momentum and energy from these victories provided a glimpse into the Jackets budding potential and set a hopeful tone for the singles matches. Despite a strong start, the Bulldogs did not go away. Transitioning into singles competition, the Jackets held a healthy lead over Georgia. 

Their momentum only grew after McDaniel took down No. 36 junior Ryan Colby on court three to hand Colby his first loss of the season. However, Georgia responded by sweeping the rest of the singles matches. Jacket sophomore Elias Shokry lost to Blaydes on court five in straight-sets, marking Blaydes’ first singles win on court five.

On court two, Bulldogs junior Miguel Perez Peña — ranked at No. 43 in singles — was locked in a tight battle with Tech senior Keshav Chopra. Chopra forced a break down in the first set, but ultimately lost in straight-sets after Peña bounced back.  Perhaps the most contested match of the entire singles bracket was on court one, where Tech star senior Andres Martin faced off against No. 41 junior Thomas Paulsell. Martin is a reigning ITA All-American across both singles and doubles competition and has garnered a reputation for his tenacity and skill. 

He pushed Paulsell to the limit in a match that featured long rallies and strategic play. Despite Martin’s best efforts, Paulsell managed to secure the win, tipping the overall contest in Georgia’s favor.

Still, Georgia needed to seal their victory on court six, where No. 112 freshman Cyrus Mahjoob took on Tech junior Rohan Sachdev. In a gripping three-set battle, Mahjoob emerged victorious, clinching the match for Georgia in his second match-clinching win of his burgeoning career. 

Despite the eventual loss, Sachdev’s performance was emblematic of Tech’s never-say-die attitude and its ability to challenge even the most formidable opponents.

Tech’s players displayed mental toughness and endurance, particularly in these matches that went the distance. Even though the Jackets lost, the resilience, teamwork and competitive spirit they displayed are promising signs of their potential.

Tech will be on a two-week break before welcoming the University of North Carolina Wilmington Seahawks and the Mercer Bears to  the Ken Byers Tennis Complex on Saturday, Feb.  24.  prior to heading to  Chapel Hill to take on the North Carolina Tar Heels in their first ACC contest of the spring. At an overall record of 5-3, the Tar Heels  should prove to be a critical opening ACC matchup for the Jackets as Tech looks to crack the top three of the ACC tennis standings.