Looking for the ultimate tennis viewing experience?
Forget Roland Garros, Centre Court at Wimbledon, and even the big stage of the U.S. Open.
Tennis in its purest form comes to Athens, Georgia this week, and for almost two weeks, fans will see players giving everything they have, coaches playing a chess match, and national champions crowned in team and individual competitions. This all happens in front of appreciative and sometimes raucous crowds on the campus of the University of Georgia.
It's the 2014 NCAA Men's and Women's Tennis Championships, and it's tennis like you see nowhere else.
The Team Format
Sixteen men's and sixteen women's teams begin play on May 15 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, in what many consider wide open fields that any number of teams or players could win.
USC is the top seed on the men's side, and they face still competition from the likes of Oklahoma, UCLA, Ohio State, and Virginia.
Looking for a darkhorse?
No team wants to play the Georgia Bulldogs in Athens, and the Bulldogs come in as a 10th seed this year. They have a track record. Georgia is making its 36th appearance in the NCAA Tournament and 31st in a row. Georgia last reached the semifinals in 2013, and have six NCAA titles to their name.
I'd say six teams or more could take the women's team championship. Georgia is the top seed here and they face USC in the round of 16. In previous years, this could be a championship match. Duke, Florida, Alabama, and UCLA are waiting in the wings for their chance to take to the courts and battle it out for the next four rounds.
I know it seems sometimes a little anticlimactic after the excitement and drama of the team championships, but individual singles and doubles play begins the next day and that means all of the courts will be again loaded with matches until late at night.
If you've never attended the NCAA Tennis Championships in Athens, you are in for a treat. In the past, I've compared it to a three-ring circus. That holds true. The layout at the Dan Magill Complex has the courts broken into groups of three. The stands span all three courts and since action and points on side-by-side courts rarely end at the same moment, you will hear cheers and jeers while other points are still in progress. Think of it as Final Four meets Davis Cup with the electricity of a night match at the U.S. Open thrown in for good measure.
During your time at the championships you will hear yelling, screaming, and barking (if the University of Georgia Bulldogs are playing) from both the players and fans.
The NCAA Tennis Championship run May 15-26, 2014 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia. The tennis is high quality and so is the drama. There is a lot at stake, but remember these are student-athletes. Some of which you will see on the professional tours in a year or so.
NCAA Championships tickets are on sale now and can be purchased by calling the Georgia ticket office at 1-877-542-1231 or at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.