published Sunday, June 15th, 2014

Top two seeds meet for TVOC men's title

Wayne Montgomery finally will get the chance to begin his tennis career at the University of Georgia in the fall. In the meantime, he's staying as sharp as he can competing in Chattanooga.

The Johannesburg, South Africa, native will be competing against top seed Gonzales Austin of Vanderbilt in the men's open singles final of the Tennessee Valley Open Championships this morning at Manker Patten at 9. The No. 2 seed advanced with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Forrest Edwards, the fourth seed.

The women's open final will pit Vanderbilt rising junior Marie Casares and Georgia rising sophomore Natalia Maynetto at 10:30 a.m.

Montgomery has won multiple South African and African junior titles in singles and doubles and has represented South Africa internationally in team and individual events. He has been a member of the ITF junior touring teams each year since the age of 13 and also participated at the Junior Davis Cup in Mexico in 2010 and 2011.

In 2013, he reached a career high ITF U-18 world ranking of No. 7, and he has 92 career singles wins. He has won ITF junior circuit tournaments in Gaberone, Port Elizabeth, East London, Montreal (doubles), Potchefstroom (singles and doubles), Traralgon (doubles), and Maryland (singles and doubles). He has reached the quarterfinals at the U.S. Open and the Australian Open as well as the doubles semifinals at Wimbledon.

Montgomery's recruitment to Georgia was aided by a prior relationship with graduated senior Hernus Pieters, also from South Africa. His Bulldogs career was supposed to start this past spring semester, but he wasn't approved by the NCAA clearinghouse in time so he didn't sign until mid-April.

He's been in the United States for about two months and is taking summer classes in Athens.

"It's cool here," Montgomery said. "It's a completely different vibe than it is back home: Americans are strict, while South Africans are a lot more chill. There aren't a lot of rules back home; you just go with the flow. If you break a rule there it's like 'whatever,' but if you break one here, it's like you get a record or something."

Montgomery and doubles teammate Eric Diaz lost to Samford's Carl Abalos and Florida A&M's Salif Kante, so he's only in line to claim the $3,000 first-place prize money that goes to the singles champion. The runner-up receives $1,500.

"I've really liked it here so far," he said of Chattanooga and the TVOC. "It's pretty big -- actually bigger than what I expected it to be. It's pretty cool."

Austin is in the finals of the open singles, open doubles and mixed doubles and could win a total of $3,500 with titles in all three divisions. He's paired with rising Florida sophomore Elliott Orkin in doubles and Vanderbilt sophomore Courtney Colton in mixed doubles. Colton also is in the women's doubles final with Casares, and the two will face University of Tennessee at Chattanooga teammates Kayla Jones and Kelsey Coots.

Former Baylor School standout Harper Caswell, who's headed to Furman, won the women's open singles consolation Saturday, defeating Coots 0-6, 6-2, (13-11), while sister Samantha Caswell will play with UTC's Pavels Grigorjevs against Austin and Colton in the mixed open final.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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