ATLANTA--The Georgia State men's tennis team won its fifth-consecutive match with a 6-1 victory against Gardner-Webb at the Sharon Lester Tennis Center on Saturday.
The Panthers, under the direction of third-year head coach Chase Hodges, improved to 9-2 on the season with the dominating victory. They became the first Georgia State men's tennis team to start the season 9-2 since the 2002 squad that won the Atlantic Sun Tournament.
"Good teams find a way to win when they don't play at their best," Hodges said, "We won the match today despite playing less than what we are capable of. We have some things to improve on, so hopefully tomorrow we will play like we are capable of."
After Georgia State took the doubles point, freshman Matias Hatem clinched the match with a 6-1, 6-3 win at No. 2 singles over Gardner-Webb freshman Ernest Alberch. The win was Hatem's 10th of the season as he became the first freshman in recent Georgia State history to begin the year 10-1.
Wins from freshmen Sofiane Chevallier and Ismael Lahlou at No. 5 and No. 4 singles, respectively, preceded Hatem's victory. Chevallier quickly took care of Runnin' Bulldogs freshman Joao Poli 6-0, 6-4, to notch his second career victory. Lahlou earned a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 4 singles shortly after against junior Roman Piftor.
Sophomore Thomas Cook grabbed a hard-fought 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 1-0 (10-6) win against Gardner-Webb junior Adam Knutsson-Sundblad. Cook rallied after dropping the first set in a tiebreaker to take the third and deciding set via a 10-point tiebreaker.
Junior Victor Valente earned a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1, triumph over Korhan Ates to finish off the match. The No. 14-ranked player in the ITA Southeast Singles rankings is now 8-2 on the season.
Georgia State started the match by sweeping a hotly-contested doubles point over the Big South Conference foe. Chevallier and Lahlou began the match with a 8-5 victory at No. 2 doubles over Gardner-Webb junior Matthew Parker and Alberch.
The doubles point came down to two close matches at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles. Junior Lucas Santana and Cook raced out to a 3-0 lead at No. 3 doubles. But Gardner-Webb's freshmen tandem of Poli and Brendan Dempsey rallied to tie the match at 3-3. Eventually, Cook and Santana took a 7-6 lead and put the match away to give Georgia State the doubles point.
Valente and Hatem took a 9-8 (7-4) match to close out doubles play at the No. 1 spot. The tandem defeated Gardner-Webb's Adam Knutsson-Sundblad and Krohan Ates to move to 5-5 this season.
Georgia State hosts two matches on Sunday at the Sharon Lester Tennis Center beginning at 1 p.m. The Panthers take on UNC Asheville of the Big South Conference to kick-off the doubleheader before finishing against Georgia Southwestern State at 6 p.m.
"I feel good about the progress the team is making and I look forward to the doubleheader tomorrow," Hodges said.
Visit the men's tennis page on www.GeorgiaStateSports.com to follow live stats and a live blog of Sunday's doubleheader.