ROME — Two more national titles have been added to the Georgia Gwinnett College men’s tennis program’s trophy case after players captured NAIA individual singles and doubles championships on Sunday to conclude the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Cup at the Rome Tennis Center.
The two men’s national championships along with this year’s women’s doubles national title increase the program’s total to 34 NAIA championships (13 team and 21 individual).
Senior Agustin Tamagnone was a significant part of both of this year’s championships, winning a competitive three-set match against Francisco Faria of Olivet Nazarene University (Ill.) and joining senior Valentino Caratini for a hard-earned victory in the afternoon’s doubles title tilt.
“This was an unbelievable day for our program. All three matches were highly competitive,” said GGC head coach Chase Hodges. “Agustin’s performance today was nothing short of amazing.”
In the singles finale, Tamagnone and Faria traded taking control of the opening set before the GGC player came away with a 6-4 victory.
Faria turned the tables in the second set by making an early break of Tamagnone’s service game post a 6-4 triumph of his own.
The Olivet Nazarene player seemed to be in control of the deciding third set after taking a 4-0 lead. However, Tamagnone eventually held onto his service game and got a break of serve to make things interesting at 4-3.
“Getting my first point of the third set was important because I started getting vocal and the crowd support got behind me. That lifted me up and probably affected him,” said Tamagnone on the third-set comeback attempt.
After each player held their service games, Faria had the match on his racquet leading 5-4. However, Tamagnone managed to win some critical points to stay alive in the match. A relatively routine service game followed to put Tamagnone out in front, 6-5, for the first time in the deciding set.
The GGC senior then took a 15-40 lead on Faria’s serve and the two players battled for a length rally before a backhand slice induced a cross court error that gave Tamagnone the championship, winning the third set 7-5.
“I believed in Agustin and, most importantly, Agustin believed in himself,” Hodges said. “He grinded away and began chipping away at the (third set) deficit. Once it got tight, I liked his chances because the crowd was really on his side and the momentum he was building.” Tamagnone came away from his ITA Cup semifinal and championship round singles matches with three-set marathon efforts.
“I tried to keep returning shots and putting the pressure on him. When I hit the (deciding third-set point) slice and came to the net it put pressure on him to hit a difficult shot,” said Tamagnone.
After the emotional singles victory, Tamagnone relied on fellow senior and countryman Caratini in the doubles championship match. Caratini, the 2018 NAIA doubles champion, ripped a forehand cross court that was just out of the reach of the Xavier University (La.) opposing team to give the GGC duo an early 4-1 lead. They held on to win the first set by a 6-4 score.
“Our energy throughout the match was amazing,” said Caratini. “Winning the national title has been our goal since we started playing doubles at the beginning of this fall. We were two lions out there today.”
The Argentinian duo would continue their strong play in the second set. After Caratini held his service game to even the set at 4-4, the team got a key break of serve to grab a 5-4 lead. Tamagnone served to secure the title, winning by another 6-4 score.
“Our chemistry on court helped get us the break in the second set and it was fitting that Agustin served it out (for the national doubles championship) after what he accomplished (two NAIA titles) this week,” said Caratini.
Tamagnone joins former NAIA All-America player Kevin Konfederak — also from Argentina — as the only GGC men’s tennis players in program history to win a team, singles and doubles national championships.