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Georgia sophomore Trent Bryde waits to return a shot from his opponent during a NCAA tennis match on Tuesday, Feb. 25, 2020, at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia. Georgia defeated Mercer 7-0. (Photo/Julian Alexander, jalexander@randb.com)

The duo of junior Trent Bryde and sophomore Tyler Zink has lived up to expectations early into this shortened season for Georgia’s men’s tennis team due to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

During Georgia’s opening weekend of matches — against Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina from Oct. 2 to Oct. 4 — the two finished an unblemished 3-0 to win the tournaments doubles championship.

“It was great to be back on the court with him,” Zink said. “We definitely were focusing on being aggressive and doing stuff together as a team.”

Bryde and Zink’s connection on the court began even before both were in Athens. Bryde said the pair competed and won doubles at the Orlando 15k Future in 2019. Zink and Bryde are not only friends on the court, but also off as they roomed together last season.

“We just connected off the bat, so ever since then we really have built a great connection,” Bryde said. “It makes a difference on the doubles court when you have good chemistry, so I just feel that’s why we work so well together.”

Even though the pair are not roommates this year, they have continued to build their relationship on and off the court which has only improved their chemistry. Bryde said both complement one another on the court as they have learned how to play into each other’s strengths and are there for each other’s weaknesses as well.

Head coach Manuel Diaz said he quickly noticed the chemistry between Bryde and Zink as they greatly enjoy training and competing with one another. Serving was not a dominant factor for them last season, so they had to rely on other areas of their game such as their return of serves, their ability to cover the net and each other.

“Those areas were important last year and now that their serves are bigger, it makes them an even more dangerous combination,” Diaz said.

Last season was cut short for the Georgia men’s tennis team due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulted in both returning to their hometowns: Bryde in Suwanee, Georgia, and Zink in Sarasota, Florida. 

Throughout quarantine, Zink said he continued to work with his father five days a week while also integrating two hours of off-the-court agility and strength training into his everyday workout.

Zink said having a father double as a coach has been a blessing.

“[My father] knows me the best, so he always knows when something is up and I am struggling with something,” Zink said.

Every tournament, Bryde and Zink use doubles as an opportunity to help themselves get loose for their singles matches that follow directly after. Bryde said competing in singles and doubles matches go hand-in-hand as some of the things that help their doubles game translates into singles match play.  

“If there is ever a day we’re practicing doubles in practice, it’s also focusing on the singles game because I mean they’re different but they’re also alike,” Zink said.

Bryde believes Georgia is capable of winning a national championship this season as long as they continue working hard and maintain their success. Both Bryde and Zink will be competing to win the NCAA championship as a doubles team as well as for the singles title.

“I think they are both going to be among the elite players in the nation,” Diaz said. “They are capable of beating anybody in the country.”