The late pro football hall-of-fame coach Vince Lombardi once famously stated, "It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up." UF’s men’s tennis team is taking that adage to heart this week.
Despite losing its last two matches to Texas Tech on Jan. 24 and Southern California on Jan. 30, the Gators continued to display an unwavering positive attitude toward their future.
"I think this group truly believes in one another," coach Bryan Shelton said. "I think they truly believe that this could be a very special year for us, and so I think that they feel like, let’s get back to work, let’s get back on the horse, we’ve got a lot more great opportunities that lie ahead."
Florida has little to be ashamed of as far as its losses to the Red Raiders and Trojans, as both teams are highly touted and highly ranked.
Texas Tech boasts the No. 2-ranked doubles tandem in the country and is ranked No. 14 overall, while USC is ranked No. 6 overall and has won five of the past seven NCAA Championships. The Gators fell to both teams 4-3, proving that despite the losses, they are capable of competing with some top teams.
Junior co-captain Elliott Orkin said the Gators are already over the losses and are focused entirely on what’s next.
"We’re not really thinking about those two matches that much. We’re using it more as a learning experience," Orkin said. "We’re really looking at these next two weeks to really improve in a bunch of different areas."
Orkin and fellow captain senior Diego Hidalgo have been the Gators’ most consistent players so far this season.
Orkin is 7-3 overall, with a 4-1 record in singles and a 3-2 record in doubles. Hidalgo is 5-1 overall, with a 3-1 singles record and 2-0 doubles record.
"I feel like I’m gaining more confidence each match I play," Orkin said.
The team’s other two upperclassmen, senior Gordon Watson and junior Maxx Lipman, have had solid starts to their seasons as well. Lipman has gone 3-1 in doubles this season, while Watson has gone 2-1 in doubles and won his first singles match of season against USC 7-6, 7-5.
"(Watson) was not healthy early, but he’s coming back into good health again and good form, so it’s been nice to see him," Shelton said.
The Gators will look to end their two-match losing streak on Saturday when they take on the unranked Furman Paladins in Gainesville. The match was added to their schedule on Feb. 5 to make up for a past match against UCLA that was canceled due to rain.