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Saturday, April 20, 2024

In its second match of the season, the UF men's tennis team knocked off a top-10 team.

The Gators (2-0) defeated No. 7 Baylor 7-0 on Sunday in front of an amped-up Linder Stadium crowd.

"We needed some confidence, and we've earned some confidence against a very good team," UF coach Andy Jackson said. "We also, frankly, understand that if we played again it could easily be 6-1, 7-0 (in Baylor's favor)."

The Bears (1-1) presented the challenge Jackson said the No. 10 Gators need.

The match-clinching victory came from Carlos Cueto, whose play lifted spectators to their feet.

The freshman defeated Baylor's Denes Lukacs 6-0, 0-6, 6-3 on court No. 1.

"After he won the first set, he made the big mistake of looking at the scoreboard," Jackson said of Cueto's dropped second set. "Once you do that, you distract yourself, your level goes down a bit and the other guy gets all over you."

Cueto admitted to the blunder, saying he felt too relaxed after the quick start.

"In the first set, (Lukacs) was reaching and was really long and really deep," he said. "But the second set, he was hitting balls really short. I was playing far behind. When the ball's going deep, that's good. But when they're just bouncing there, he could do whatever he wanted with the ball."

Yelling "Vamos!" the left-handed Cueto got his one-handed backhand working again in the deciding set and was met with roars of approval.

"Carlos was able to dig really, really deep and push through and get a win against a very good player," Jackson said. "(Lukacs) is ranked 21, but he is one of the best 10 guys in the country."

Junior Antoine Benneteau was able to overcome a 3-0 deficit in the opening set, rallying to a 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) win.

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"Even though Antoine is a rookie in terms of this being his first season, he's bringing a huge amount of leadership to these young guys," Jackson said. "They respect him a lot. He takes care of business. He's extremely professional in his demeanor, and you don't have to baby-sit him. He's teaching the other guys how to be more mature."

That attitude had the native of France banged up by the end. Benneteau took a nasty fall at 3-2 in the tie-breaker, scraping his right knee. He was tended to and finished the match.

"I told him he didn't just affect his match today," Jackson said. "He was a big reason why those other kids were able to make jumps."

Jackson meant kids like sophomore Jeff Dadamo and freshman Joey Burkhardt, who each followed up Friday losses with wins.

Dadamo made quick work of Marc Bruche 6-2, 6-4 in the shortest match.

"The way that Jeff was able to turn the weekend around and really get off the court quickly, which is something that we asked him to do, was very impressive," Jackson said. "It was a huge factor in the match."

Burkhardt defeated No. 72-ranked Dominik Mueller 7-5, 6-4.

"(Joey) didn't get out-matured or out-toughed against a very good player," Jackson said. "(Mueller) is sort of the rock of their team. He's probably not their fourth-best player. He's probably higher than that. They put him down there low because they expect him to beat up on kids."

Sophomore Johnny Hamui continued his winning ways, beating Marc Bruche 6-2, 6-4.

"That's going to be good for (Johnny's) confidence, and he's earned it," Jackson said.

Fellow sophomore Alex Lacroix took down Jordan Rux. He beat the No. 13 player 6-7, 6-4, 1-0 (12-10).

In doubles action, Benneteau and Burkhardt toppled Lukacs and Rux 8-5. Hamui and Dadamo downed Attila Bucko and Julian Bley 8-4. And the pairing of Cueto and Lacroix beat David Galic and Maros Horny 8-6.

"We're making some progress in doubles but still have a long way to go, but we're better than we have been," Jackson said.

UF hosts Arizona in the International Tennis Indoor tournament at 10 a.m. on Friday.

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