Marta Gonzalez smiles during the second annual First Serve on Saturday, January 18, 2020 at the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Tennis Courts in Athens, Georgia. The men’s and women’s tennis teams played mixed matches against one another and hosted a clinic during the event. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

With one powerful put-away, everyone’s attention was pulled toward court three in the Lindsey Hopkins Indoor Tennis Courts. It was the first point in a tiebreaker doubles match between Georgia men’s tennis coaches and players. Other players migrated and fans followed them to watch the match.

In the second annual First Serve event on Jan. 18, the players vs. coaches match was the biggest crowd pleaser and the only match to silence the indoor facility. In the fight for bragging rights, the lead switched back and forth several times.  

Eventually, the coaches won 10-8, which helped the Black team defeat the Red team 7-5 in the women’s and men’s teams scrimmage. 

In announcing the members of the two teams, fellow teammates used nicknames, praised their accomplishments on and off the court and made inside jokes. 

The women’s team added freshman Anna Hertel from Warsaw, Poland, to its roster before the spring season. Hertel competed in her first Georgia tennis event Saturday. 

“It feels amazing. ... I’m actually really excited for the season to start,” Hertel said. “[The team is] like my new family. I’ve known them for two weeks, and they feel like sisters already.”

Along with the excitement came emotions, as senior Marta Gonzalez played a singles scrimmage against the only other senior joining her on the women’s tennis roster, Elena Christofi. 

“Every time I step on the court, I live it to the limit because I know it’s my last semester,” Gonzalez said. 

Following the matches, players interacted with fans on the courts. The tennis players gave an hour-long clinic to  the children and adults that came to watch the match. They also ran drills and played games. 

Afterward, the players sat down in a row to autograph posters and tennis balls. 

“I just love that our guys are so enthused about sharing time and giving a clinic for the local kids,” men’s head coach Manuel Diaz said. “It has become very popular, and I love what we have been able to do with First Serve over the last two years.”

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