COLLEGE STATION, Texas – After a big upset in the first round of the NCAA doubles tournament, Arkansas’ Rohan Gajjar and Adrians Zguns almost pulled off an even bigger surprise in a round of 16 match against the No. 1 team in the nation, but they came up short on Friday.
Gajjar and Zguns, ranked No. 31 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association rankings, upset 15th-ranked Patrick Briaud and Conor Niland of California in the first round, 6-4, 7-6, at Texas A&M’s George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. Briaud and Niland ended the year 18-14.
Zguns and Gajjar, a pair of juniors who finished the year 12-13 with a 4-5 record against ranked teams, advanced to meet Georgia’s John Isner and Antonio Ruiz, the top-ranked team in the nation.
After pulling even at 3-3 in the first set, the Bulldog duo won three straight to take the set 6-3. Isner and Ruiz, now 31-6 on the year, jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the second set before Gajjar and Zguns closed within 5-4. Isner and Ruiz held serve and won the match with a 6-4 second-set victory.
“We did okay,” UA head coach Robert Cox said. “It could have been better. We didn’t play as well as we did in the first match. When you play the No. 1 team in the country, you have to bring your best. We dug ourselves a little hole in the second set, but we loosened up and pushed them in the end.”
Zguns and Gajjar suffered their second close loss of the year to Isner and Ruiz. The Georgia team won this year’s dual-match meeting, 8-6, on March 11, when Isner and Ruiz were ranked No. 3 in the nation.
“I’m really proud of these guys for making the tournament, advancing in the tournament and being in the round of 16,” Cox said. “We have a good nucleus coming back next year so I’m excited about the future.”
In the singles tournament, Gajjar, ranked No. 62, lost a tough three-setter to 26th-ranked Mat Cloer of Florida State, 2-6, 6-2, 3-6, to finish the season 21-15.
Gajjar and Zguns, who was 18-14 in singles this year, each earned All-Southeastern Conference honors. Zguns was also named the 2005 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Region Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award nominee. The Rafael Osuna Award goes to a player who displays sportsmanship, character, excellent academics and has had outstanding tennis accomplishments.
In addition to Gajjar and Zguns, Matt Roberts, another junior, returns next season after going 26-9 in singles. That record included a six-match winning streak at the ITA Icy Hot/All-American Tournament. He also teamed with senior Imraan Ismail to win the ITA Region V doubles championship.
“Adrians, Rohan, Matt and all of our other returning players are excited about next year,” Cox said. “Those three will be ready to get back and have a great, great senior year and continue our tradition of success.” Freshman Michael Jung (11-11) will also be back, along with sophomore Andrei Nicoara (5-8), and freshmen Jimmy Khougassian, Braden Burk, Brenton Horne and Brian Yanulis.