Almost a year later, the Panthers’ tennis team returns

The Panthers seemed fatigued early on, and Charlotte took advantage of each chance they got. Photo Submitted by GSU Athletics

The Georgia State men’s tennis team finally returned to the court to kick off their spring 2021 season on Jan. 30. Head coach Jonathan Wolff waited with his team for 328 days to return to action.

Unfortunately, that extended layoff did not translate into an immediate win, with Georgia State falling to the 3-1 Charlotte 49ers by a score of 4-2 overall. The team was understandably rusty, considering they had not played in a year.

“Tough one out there today, but the team competed hard in our first match back in what seemed like forever,” Wolff said.

The day started with the 30th ranked doubles duo, Andrei Duarte and Roberts Grinvalds, notching their first doubles win of the season. They defeated 39th ranked Benjamin Wayand and Henry Lieberman on the first court.

Over on the third court, experience and youth synergized as freshman Mihai Marinescu paired with senior Kevin Huynh. The rookie and veteran pairing earned a 6-3 win in their first outing to help clinch the one-point advantage. With an early 1-0 lead, singles action took the stage next.

Vazha Shubladze, the 2019 Sun Belt Newcomer of the Year and this week’s Sun Belt Player of the Week, was the lone player to win in the singles competition. The junior, playing in the No. 1 spot, dominated 6-1 and 6-0 to secure Georgia State’s second point in the match, 2-0 over Charlotte.

As the 104th ranked Shubladze dispatched his opponent on the first court, other Panthers found little success. Duarte and Harvey Maughan fell (3-6, 6-2, 6-4) and (7-5, 7-6), ending at 3-2.

Court three started differently for Marinescu, as he staked an early claim to victory with a tough first match (6-7). That was the only advantage he could claim as time elapsed, but his adversary, Olle Wallin, had more gas left in the tank. Wallin claimed the next two straight sets for the win (6-3 and 6-3) to swing momentum and the score to 3-2.

Although Grinvalds did his best to keep the Panthers in the match, Charlotte gained the advantage for the day and never relinquished it. He went down in straight sets, 7-6 in each.

With that finish, Georgia State fell into an inescapable hole, down 4-2, leading the game to end even though court six was still playing. Diego Padilla of Georgia State was in a tough spot early after a 3-6 set and finished at 2-2.

The lack of match conditioning likely became a contributing factor to Georgia State’s fatigue as the afternoon progressed.

“Credit to Charlotte for picking up their level to fight back in singles and take the match,” Wolff said. “We will continue to get more reps in and get stronger every day this season. It is a quick turn around with two tough matches on the road next week, so we need to rebound quickly and hit the ground running in practice.”