Augustans bring home sectional doubles title

  • Follow Other sports

It was the stuff of major motion pictures.

Augusta's USTA 7.5-combo doubles team won the sectional title in Louisiana. Members are Viet Nguyen (top row from left), David Fulton, Ian Mercier, Dan Rudic and Robert Morgan. Bottom row, from left, are Scott Kirchhoff and captain Tony Mundy.  Special
Special
Augusta's USTA 7.5-combo doubles team won the sectional title in Louisiana. Members are Viet Nguyen (top row from left), David Fulton, Ian Mercier, Dan Rudic and Robert Morgan. Bottom row, from left, are Scott Kirchhoff and captain Tony Mundy.

A group of tennis buddies coming together, forming a team to take on the cream of the crop from an Atlanta area saturated with talent.

That small-market Augusta squad lost its first state match in Dalton, but still advanced to compete against teams from across the Southeast after winning the Georgia state tournament.

In Hollywood, those teams often find the promised land. But in real life, they're often just happy to be there.

Not this time.

"It's something that doesn't happen a lot from this area. It's hard for us to compete against larger areas," team captain Tony Mundy said. "People couldn't believe it."

A group of seven players from the Augusta area traveled to Baton Rouge, La., in late January for the 7.5-level Combo Doubles USTA Southern Sectional Champ-ionships.

The combo format features three doubles matches making up each team match. The kicker is that each doubles team must consist of a 3.5-rated player and a 4.0-rated player to add up to the combined 7.5.

Mundy and his group knocked off teams from North Carolina, Alabama, South Carolina and Louisiana to advance to the championship match against the Tennessee representative.

Heading into the final, Ian Mercier and his partner, Viet Nguyen, had not lost a competitive match together throughout the run to Baton Rouge.

But they were matched against one of the strongest teams in the tournament.

"Almost every team we played had a set of ringers, two guys that could absolutely blow away anybody," Mercier said. "We were good enough, even when we played their ringers, to keep it close."

The Augusta pair won the first set but ultimately fell in a tight, third-set tiebreaker.

"It had a little bit of an initial bite to it," Mercier said of the loss. "But we just happened to be the ones to make the sacrifice.

"There was that little bit of an emotional side to losing our match. But in the grand scheme of things, it's about the team."

That match, paired with a relatively easy win by Augusta's No. 1 team of Robert Morgan and David Fulton, left Mundy and Scott Kirchhoff to win a pressure-filled third-set tiebreaker for all the marbles.

"It meant more winning it in a tight match," Kirchhoff said. "If Tony and I won 6-0, 6-0, it wouldn't have been as fulfilling."

While team member Dan Rudic didn't play in the final match, his teammates stressed the fact that any combination of the seven players was equally potent.

In short, they were the most balanced team in the sectional.

With the combo format being relatively new, there isn't yet a national tournament to which sectional winners advance.

It was just like a movie script to throw in a twist after the denouement.

When the players touched down after a flight back home, the congratulations from close friends and family was tempered a bit by the news that nearly every team member had been moved up in rank by the computerized ranking system.

Thus, if the team members were to compete again together, it would have to be in the 8.5 division -- an entirely different and much more difficult venture.

The fact that it was their final match together in the division made the experience that much more rewarding.

"Really, it's just being out of town with your friends. To win a championship with your friends is probably the best thing I got out of it," Nguyen said.

"Having fun, hanging out with friends and enjoying the competition."

Reach Justin Williams at (706) 823-3304 or justin.williams@augustachronicle.com.


Loading...