ATHENS – KU Singh was one of the best college tennis players in the country. He was Georgia’s best player. He is also, in the words of his now-former head coach, a “very different individual.”
While his teammates stretched together, Singh would be away on the side, stretching on his own. When everyone else warmed up together, Singh would be on the side again, alone.
“We were flexible. But he wasn’t happy, and that’s okay,” Manny Diaz, the longtime head men’s tennis coach at Georgia, said on Wednesday.
That still didn't quite prepare Diaz for what was to become. On Tuesday, at around 4:30 p.m., Singh walked into Diaz’s office and pulled out a couple pieces of paper. It was a prepared statement.
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Three days before the start of the NCAA tournament, Georgia’s best player was quitting. He was going home to India.
Diaz was surprised, to say the least. In 31 years at Georgia, including the past 24 as coach, this had never happened. But he also realized there was no use talking Singh out of it, so he didn’t let him finish reading his statement.
“It’s not like you decide to go to India on the spur of the moment,” said Diaz, who has guided Georgia to four national championships. “I respectfully listened to him, and that’s it.”
So on Wednesday Singh, rated the fourth-best college tennis player in the nation, was on a flight to India. His now-former teammates, ranked second in the nation prior to Singh’s departure, will try to win without him.
“The timing of it is kinda mind-boggling,” Diaz said.
So why did he do this? Singh, in a statement provided Tuesday night to Dawgs247.com, cited a combination of “personal differences I had with the coaching staff that built up over the course of the semester,” and his own post-college goals.
“As I am sure you can imagine, this was an extremely difficult decision for me to make, especially at this juncture,” Singh said.
Asked to confirm whether there were personal differences, Diaz declined to comment, saying the two didn’t get into specifics during their Tuesday meeting.
“I didn’t really care what reasons he gave," Diaz said. "It wasn’t for the moment, I didn’t think. It was (irrelevant). He had already made a decision. He had already purchased his ticket.”
Singh had never threatened to leave before, according to Diaz. Two weeks ago he had requested time away, telling Diaz he needed time to rest his body, and to study. Diaz saw his other players around the tennis complex, but not Singh, until he came in to quit.
This was Singh’s second season at Georgia. He transferred after his sophomore year at Illinois, which also happens to be the site of this year’s NCAA championships. Singh finished this year 17-9, after going 22-5 as a junior.
Georgia begins play Friday in the first and second round, at home in its complex. Singh was the team’s No. 1 singles player, so with him gone every player just moves up a slot.
“I think you’ll have a bunch of guys representing Georgia that want to be here, that will play their hearts out for each other,” Diaz said. “And that’s what our program stands for, and I think that’s what you’ll see out here.”