With a quick turnaround coming off the ITA All-American Championship in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Florida men’s tennis team returns to action this weekend at the USTA/ITA Regional Championship in Atlanta.
The tournament, hosted by Georgia Tech, includes competition from 15 Florida and Georgia schools. The tournament will begin on Friday with qualifying singles rounds and continue through Tuesday.
It’s a special tournament for coach Bryan Shelton, who has fond memories of his time with the Yellow Jackets.
Shelton was the head coach of the women’s tennis team at Georgia Tech for 13 seasons, leading them to a national title in 2007. As a player, Shelton was named an All-American and received four All-ACC selections.
“That’s a special place to me,” he said. “I not only went to school there, but I coached there for many years, so that’ll be a great experience to go back and play on those courts.”
The Gators have been successful in the regional tournament in the past, taking four doubles championships and a singles title since 2009.
Shelton discussed how prestigious this tournament is and what it means to win in singles and/or doubles, receiving an automatic bid to the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Indian Wells, California.
“There’s a carrot out there for our guys, especially for the ones that haven’t qualified yet,” Shelton said.
Four Gators have already qualified for the tournament because of their performance in Tulsa. Freshman Duarte Vale and junior McClain Kessler have qualified for doubles, while junior Alfredo Perez and sophomore Johannes Ingildsen have a bid for both singles and doubles.
Shelton said he expects the team to go out and compete at a high level this weekend with hopes of improving as the tournament goes on.
“I believe that in tennis when you practice and train you can improve arithmetically, but in competition and in tournaments you can improve exponentially,” Shelton said. “So we’ll look for that exponential growth this weekend.”
Ingildsen said the team’s focus on serving technique and serve-return in practice has paid dividends.
“We’ve been working a lot on serve and return,” Ingildsen said. “Almost every day we’ve been out there serving and I think it showed off in the matches we’ve played.”
Ingildsen said he’s confident in UF’s ability to win this weekend and punch more tickets to the fall championships in November.
“There’s definitely a chance to win the tournament in Atlanta,” the Denmark native said. “I expect the other guys to do well there and hopefully get a tournament win there so they can go to California with us.”
Sophomore Stephen Madonia will open the competition for the Gators on Friday at 11 a.m. in the second round of singles play against Colter DeCoste of Stetson University after receiving a first-round bye.
You can follow Mari Faiello on Twitter @faiello_mari, and contact her at [email protected].