ATHENS, Ga. -- Alex Llompart has won Davis Cup matches for his native Puerto Rico and is on an 18-match winning streak in college, but none of those victories compare to the one he posted Sunday.
After blowing match point while leading 5-2 in the second set against Georgia’s Sadio Doumbia, then losing the set in a tiebreaker, Llompart rallied past Doumbia in the third set to win 7-6 (2), 6-7 (2), 6-4 and push his Pepperdine team to a dramatic 4-3 upset over Georgia in the NCAA tennis quarterfinals.
“This is No. 1. I’ve played Davis Cup before, I’ve won at home, but there’s nothing like what happened today out there,” said Llompart, whose team faces Virginia in Monday’s semifinals at 5 p.m. “But we’re looking for something bigger this week, which is to win it all.”
Nearly every singles match was intensely competitive, with three of the six going to a deciding third set and two of the straight-set wins featuring tiebreakers. Only Georgia’s Ignacio Taboada had an easy match, winning at No. 4 singles to tie the score at 1-all after Pepperdine won the doubles point.
Georgia actually claimed a 3-1 lead with victories by KU Singh and Nathan Pasha at Nos. 2 and 5 singles, respectively. But the Bulldogs’ advantage was somewhat deceptive as Pepperdine led on each of the courts that were still in play.
Georgia’s Hernus Pieters nearly sent his match at No. 6 singles into a third set, but fell 7-4 in a tiebreaker and lost 6-4, 7-6, then Pepperdine’s Sebastian Fanselow overtook Wil Spencer in the third set, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 to tie the team score at 3-all.
That’s when all 3,200 sets of eyes in the Dan Magill Tennis Complex turned to Court 3, where Doumbia sent the match to a third set just as Fanselow put the finishing touches on his win against Spencer.
The Bulldogs’ home crowd made its presence felt, cheering and barking loudly for Doumbia -- and he nearly stole an early break to go up 3-1 before Llompart held and then broke serve on the next game -- until the bitter end. But once Llompart got his service break, he held the rest of the way, including the final game, where he battled out of a 15-40 hole to eventually win once he evened things at deuce and then took the advantage.
“Pepperdine just played a great match,” Georgia coach Manuel Diaz said. “They really owned the big moments. They were composed. They brought their best tennis at the most important times. I have to give them all the credit. Today was a day where they competed well and we gave all we had. We just came up a little bit short.”
The Waves (27-6) -- who defeated Georgia for the NCAA title in 2006 at Stanford -- handed second-seeded Georgia (26-3) just its third loss of the year. Certainly none of those defeats came before such a large partisan crowd supporting the Bulldogs, which made Pepperdine’s victory even more special for the Waves.
“I’m so proud of the guys,” Pepperdine coach Adam Steinberg said. “We’ve never really been in this situation, this team, in front of a crowd like that. And how they handled that in coming out and winning the doubles point, I was so proud of them for that.
“We’ve never played in front of a crowd like that before, especially here, and Manny’s teams are so well coached. Coming out and winning that doubles point I thought was so big because it was like, ‘Wow, we can really do this.’ It made a believer out of everybody.”