At 4:45 p.m. Tuesday, Georgia’s KU Singh walked into the office of men’s tennis coach Manny Diaz and quit the team.
Singh was holding a three-page, written statement he wanted to read to Diaz and assistant coach Will Glenn to explain his decision. Diaz told Singh not to bother. He’d heard all he needed to hear.
“I really didn’t care what reasons he gave,” said Diaz, who is in his 31st season with Bulldogs, who are currently ranked No. 2 in the nation. “It wasn’t relevant, I didn’t think. He had already made his decision. He had already purchased his ticket. He decided he didn’t want to be a part of the NCAA Championship. I just didn’t think it was proper to belabor whatever points there were.”
Singh, a senior from Haryana, India, is the Bulldogs’ No. 1 singles player and ranked No. 4 in the nation. He is the best player on one of the nation’s better teams. His abrupt departure is synonymous with quarterback Aaron Murray quitting the week of a national championship game.
Effectively, it ends any realistic chance Georgia has of claiming a seventh national title in men’s tennis. The Bulldogs (22-3) open NCAA tournament play at 1 p.m. Friday against Binghamton. The winner will meet the winner of the Wake Forest-Northwestern match in the second round at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“It’s an unbelievable challenge even when you have the best team in the country,” Diaz said Wednesday on Court 1 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex. “Right now we’re 2 or 3, or whatever the polls say. It’s going to be a monumental task, and it’s never easy. But I think you’ll have a bunch of guys representing Georgia that want to be here, that what to play their hearts out for each other. That’s what our program is about.”
Singh returned to India on Wednesday morning. Reached on his cellphone around 10 a.m., Singh said he would respond to questions only via email. As of Wednesday evening he had not replied.
However, Singh told the website 247Sports.com that his departure was because of “personal differences” with the coaching staff. He also cited exhaustion after taking 28 hours of classes in the semester that just ended.
“(It was) a combination of personal differences I had with the coaching staff that built up over the course of the semester and my own personal goals moving forward after college,” Singh told the website. “As I am sure you can imagine, this was an extremely difficult decision for me to make, especially at this juncture.”
Before Tuesday afternoon’s meeting, Diaz said he hadn’t seen Singh since the Bulldogs clinched the SEC tournament championship in Oxford, Miss., on April 21. Upon returning to Athens, he said Singh asked for a break to “rest his body and study” for final exams. Meanwhile, the rest of the team continued to practice regularly and participate in conditioning workouts.
“KU is a very different individual,” Diaz said of Singh, who transferred from Illinois in January 2012. “He was not the easiest (to deal with) — not because he was a bad person; I want to make that clear — but … I made very broad (concessions) to his needs. We were flexible, but he wasn’t happy and that’s OK.”
Singh was suspended from the team in November for team-policy violations and did not participate in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships.
With Singh out of the singles lineup (he does not play doubles), all of Georgia’s players move up. Freshman Ben Wagland (23-7) takes over at the No. 1 spot, with Nathan Pasha at No. 2, Austin Smith at 3, Hernus Pieters at 4, Garrett Brasseaux at 5 and Marco Nunez at 6.
Diaz said the players were upset and were not allowed to be interviewed.
“All the guys are surprised,” Diaz said. “The timing of it is kind of mind-boggling.”