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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Before noon Monday, the UF men's tennis team had already grinded through the most important part of its day. Three players' work earned them another day at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla.

Like the team's first tournament, the Southern Intercollegiate on Sept. 19-21, it was the team's two freshmen that were most impressive.

Carlos Cueto defeated No. 60 Amit Inbar of UCLA. Cueto, who beat a top-100 opponent at the Southern Intercollegiate, continued to impress UF coach Andy Jackson.

"He's very polished and very talented," Jackson said.

Fellow freshman Joey Burkhardt was the first Gator to compete, starting at 8 a.m., and also took out a nationally ranked player, defeating No. 100 Attila Bucko of Baylor.

For Tyler Hochwalt, Monday provided a measuring stick to see how far he'd come since last season. Hochwalt squared off against Florida State's No. 119 Maciek Sykut, a player Hochwalt matched up with last year. The first time they met, Hochwalt held on to win 6-3, 7-5. This time, however, he dominated throughout and won 6-3, 6-2.

"(The rematch) was a good sign that Tyler continues to make improvements - as he should," Jackson said.

One advantage that Burkhardt and Hochwalt had was a chance to shake off some rust during the prequalifying matches over the weekend. Cueto and No. 108 Jeff Dadamo were automatically qualified and played their first matches Monday.

"They actually played better having played three matches that were tighter, gaining confidence in the prequalifying," Jackson said. "(Burkhardt) was pushed by a much better opponent than at the prequalifying but was ready for it because he had gained some confidence."

The other two Gators in the All-American, Dadamo and Daniel Cash, did not fare as well as their teammates and were ousted in the first round.

Dadamo, the only ranked player on the Gators, came out stiff and was unable to recover, losing to No. 110 Marc Spicijaric in three sets. Dadamo and Spicijaric have been playing each other since they were in high school.

"I'd rather have him too tight than too loose, but that was a problem today," Jackson said.

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Cash, who actually lost in the prequalifying but was selected to advance, could not steal a win from No. 81 Maor Zirkin of Drake.

For Dadamo, his week is not over. Dadamo and Hochwalt, his partner, automatically qualified for the doubles main draw on the strength of their No. 22 ranking.

Burkhardt and Cueto hope to join Dadamo and Hochwalt in the main draw, but first have to make it through the qualifying rounds. They will pull double duty starting today, competing in both singles and doubles matches.

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