Senior Chase Perez-Blanco held back tears after the Gators’ final regular season match as he reflected on his career at the University of Florida.
“Wouldn’t change a thing,” Perez-Blanco said. “Wish I could go back and do it again, though. It’s just been the best four years.”
The No. 10 Florida men’s tennis team finished its 2018 regular season with a sweep over the Alabama Crimson Tide 7-0 at the Ring Tennis Complex on Friday for Senior Day.
The days started with solid performances in doubles.
The fifth-ranked doubles team of junior Alfredo Perez and sophomore Johannes Ingildsen won its second match in a row with a dominant 6-2 win. The pair came out aggressive and led from beginning to end against Alabama’s duo of sophomore Edson Ortiz and junior Mazen Osama.
It wasn’t as easy for the No. 12-ranked tandem of Perez-Blanco and freshman Oliver Crawford on Court 3. The duo fell behind 5-2 before storming back to win in dramatic fashion 7-5 and clinch the doubles point.
“We just picked up our energy,” Perez-Blanco said. “We’ve been in that situation before so we knew what we had to do to get it done.”
The big win was Crawford’s and Perez-Blanco’s sixth straight victory in doubles together.
Crawford continued to shine through singles. The freshman’s up-tempo play was too much for Alabama’s Thibault Cancel, resulting in the 6-3, 6-0 win for Crawford on Court 2. With the win, the Spartanburg, South Carolina, native finishes the regular season a team-best 11-1 record in singles against SEC opponents.
On Court 3, No. 12 Perez continued his solid play as well. The junior overcame a 4-1 deficit in the first set in what would be a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Alabama’s Patrick Kaukovalta. Perez has now won his last two matches since he was moved to Court 3 on April 6.
Perez’s doubles partner, No. 23 Ingildsen, ran into some obstacles. The sophomore struggled mightily with Osama’s drop shot in the second set. However, the sophomore rallied in the third set to win 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 and clinch the match to give his team the third seed in the SEC.
After the match was clinched, the remaining three matches continued.
Andy Andrade capped off a win over Alabama’s Alexey Nesterov 6-7, 6-2, 6-2 on Court 5 for his third consecutive win.
On Courts 4 and 6, the team’s two seniors — Perez-Blanco and Jordan Belga — finished off the shutout.
With their teammates behind them chanting and cheering as if it was the national championship match, Perez-Blanco and Belga won their respective matches to cap off the victory over the Crimson Tide.
After the match, coach Bryan Shelton spoke highly of his seniors and how well they played, not just on Friday, but since they arrived four years ago.
“They’ve certainly fulfilled their part of the deal,” Shelton said. “I hope that we’ve done the same for them.”
The Gators will have almost two weeks to rest before beginning the SEC tournament on April 26 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.