State Tennis

Benedictine's Thomas Karle hits a return during his No. 1 singles match at the GHSA Tennis State Championships on Saturday at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College. The event brought in more than 1,200 spectators in its first year at the facility. / Jeremy Stewart, Rome News-Tribune

More than 1,200 people attended the 2018 GHSA Tennis State Championships on Saturday at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College where the boys’ and girls’ titles were decided for all of the organization’s eight classifications.

It was a number that caught RTC executive director Tom Daglis off guard.

“I can tell you we did not expect the amount of spectators that came out on Saturday. It was a very pleasant surprise, and I know the high school folks didn’t expect it either,” Daglis said.

“That’s obviously one of our biggest crowds for a single-day event,” he continued. “We also had the Georgia state league championships here on Friday, Sunday and Monday, so throughout the weekend I would say we had over 4,000 people here.”

GHSA Tennis Coordinator Steve Figueroa said they had brought 900 tickets to sell at the door for the event. They began running short around noon and — even after using paper tickets supplied by Daglis and his staff — still sold out before the boys’ matches began at 2 p.m.

 “I think the fans got their money’s worth, too, as eight of the 16 matches were as close as possible, ending in 3-2 scores,” Figueroa said.

Three of those lasted almost four hours, according to Figueroa. Two of them were girls matches as Walker defeated Brookstone for the Class A Private title and Chamblee edged Kell for the Class 5A title. The other, a boys’ match, saw Flowery Branch defeat Buford in Class 5A

Trion’s girls won their first-ever state title after pulling out a 3-2 win over Taylor County in the Class A Public final. Bleckley County won the Class AA girls’ title with a 3-2 final over Berrien, Westminster swept Lovett 3-0 for the 3A girls’ championship and North Oconee’s girls blanked Columbus 3-0 for the 4A title.

Another first-time state champion was Northview’s girls, as they took a 3-2 win over Cambridge in Class 6A. Walton’s girls’ team defeated Lambert in the 7A final to win the program’s 16th state title since 2001.

In the boys’ championships, Stratford Academy overtook Paideia 3-1 for the Class A Private title and Irwin County swept Telfair County 3-0 in the final for Class A Public.

It was a 3-0 sweep for Benedictine’s boys against Bleckley County in the Class AA championship, while Lovett edged Westminster 3-2 in the Class 3A boys’ final and North Oconee’s boys beat Blessed Trinity 3-0 in Class 4A. Johns Creek took a 3-0 win over Dunwoody to claim the Class 6A title, and the boys from South Forsyth won the 7A championship with a 3-1 final over Walton.

“We were delighted by the turnout and by the many, many positive comments we heard from both spectators and team coaches,” Figueroa said. “People went out of their way — even some of the losing coaches — to stop by our check-in desk as they were leaving and tell us what a wonderful facility the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College is and what a good decision the GHSA made to move the tennis championships there.”

The finals had been hosted at the 17-court Clayton County Tennis Center in Jonesboro the last 10 years. The switch to the 50-plus court facility in Rome allowed all five matches in each classification’s final to be played at the same time.

Top-class action is not done at the Rome Tennis Center. The facility will host the USTA National Level 2 Junior Championships for 16s and 18s beginning Saturday. Daglis said they will have competitors from at least 40 states coming in for the tournament, which is scheduled to end Tuesday.

“We are very busy and have a full calendar of tournaments that we are trying to add to all the time,” Daglis said. “One thing about this weekend is these are some of the best kids in country and there is no charge for spectators. So I encourage high school coaches to bring their teams out just to watch these players.”

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