Bryan Shelton

Gators men’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton and eight of his players kick off the spring season today in Sunrise, Florida.

Alligator File Photo

Eight members of the Florida men’s tennis team will compete in the qualifying rounds of the City of Sunrise Pro Tennis Classic this weekend in Sunrise, Florida. The tournament marks the start of UF’s spring season after earning a preseason ranking of No. 9 in the nation.

Of those competing, sophomore Johannes Ingildsen and freshman Duarte Vale both hold national singles rankings in the ITA preseason poll at No. 7 and No. 39, respectively. Junior Alfredo Perez holds the No. 8 ranking but will not participate this weekend.

One hundred twenty-one players from around the world will join the Gators and fight for 14 remaining spots in the tournament’s main draw, which is set to begin on Tuesday. Last season, the team played in a similar event in Plantation, Florida, where both Ingildsen and Perez advanced to the main draw but lost in the opening round.

Florida held off-campus practices this week to prepare for the clay courts at the Sunrise Tennis Club, where the tournament is being held.

Dual-match play will begin for the Gators on Jan. 22 when they host unranked UCF at the Ring Tennis Complex. The Knights are one of six non-conference opponents UF will face before SEC play opens in March. Of those six teams, three hold top-25 rankings: No. 2 Ohio State, No. 17 Michigan and No. 21 Florida State.

UF finished 19-10 in dual matches last season and advanced to the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament, where eventual national champion Virginia swept Florida 4-0.

When they returned to action in the fall, the Gators had an encouraging two months of play. Ingildsen won his draw at the Gator Ranked +1 Tournament and competed in the Oracle ITA National Fall Championship in November, where he went 2-2. At the same tournament, teammate and All-American Perez went 3-1. The two played together as a doubles pair and won the ITA All-American Championship, earning themselves the No. 1 doubles ranking in the nation.

In his first tournament as a Gator, Vale won the singles and doubles title at the Gator Ranked +1 Tournament. Vale is currently ranked No. 39 in singles.

Freshman Andy Andrade also won his first collegiate tournament with his undefeated performance at the Ivy-Plus Invitational in September.

In the coming months, coach Bryan Shelton’s roster of young stars and experienced leaders will fight for the program’s first national championship. Last fall, Shelton outlined the Gators’ competitive perspective.

“We have to continue to approach every single day the same way as if there is no tomorrow,” he said.

Follow Benjamin Brandt on Twitter @bhb1227 and contact him at [email protected].

Benjamin Brandt is a sports writer for the Alligator and covers the University of Florida men's tennis team. He has worked at the paper since Fall 2017.