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Wednesday, February 28, 2024

The No. 11 UF men's tennis team continued its dominance over in-state rivals with a 5-2 win against Miami on Sunday.

The victory comes after a sweep of South Florida on Friday.

The Gators (8-3, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) earned the first point in doubles. The No. 23 pairing of Antoine Benneteau and Joey Burkhardt defeated Daniel Vallverdu and Carl Sundberg 8-2. Courts 2 and 3 were each won 9-7.

"I thought we played a very good doubles point because I think they felt like they really needed the doubles point, and I thought we played a good level at 2 and 3," UF coach Andy Jackson said.

Benneteau beat Ignacio Toboada 6-4, 6-2 after No. 21 Alex Lacroix clinched the dual match point.

The junior looked forward to the matchup with the No. 24 Hurricanes.

"I was very nervous before the whole weekend, even before USF on Friday. I had this match on my mind," Benneteau said. "I wanted to beat them so bad, and we did, so I'm very proud of the guys, singles and doubles."

Benneteau was recently ranked No. 94 in singles play by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, but said his ranking wouldn't affect his play.

"It's good to be ranked. I'm 94, so I have a long way to catch up with Alex and (No. 24) Carlos (Cueto)," he said.

Jackson was impressed by both his team and his opponent. Miami came into a hostile environment limping.

"Miami is much better than their ranking," Jackson said. "They still played without their best player in singles, which obviously makes a difference, but regardless of the lineup, we would've had a chance against them."

UF dropped two singles matches after clinching the win. Sophomore Johnny Hamui, battling bumps and bruises brought by brutal scheduling, closed the day on Court 5 with a hard-fought 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (10-5) loss.

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Still, Jackson was impressed by his team's effort in breaking Miami's spirit.

"I think they maybe got a little bit discouraged after doubles, and I think they got a little bit discouraged not having their best player, which is an advantage to us, and we took advantage of it," he said.

"It's not like we played spoiler versus Miami. It's not one particular individual versus anybody else."

The Gators will have time to heal before heading to Tallahassee to face No. 16 Florida State on March 3.

Benneteau welcomes the reprieve.

"Now we have time to rest and time to catch up with school," he said. "I have a huge amount of work to do."

WOMEN DOWN TROY: Even missing Megan Alexander - who sat out with a sore back - and having to concede a singles point, the UF women's tennis team defeated Troy 4-1.

Freshman Jo Mather made quick work of Leonie Guijt 6-0, 6-0. Fellow freshman Jessica Alexander clinched both the doubles point and the match.

"I'm just starting to get more comfortable here, more into the groove, and trying to do my best for the team," Alexander said. "It was really fun playing for the team, and they're on the sideline cheering."

Courts 2 and 5 did not finish after UF clinched the dual match. Coach Roland Thornqvist was impressed with his team considering its stretch of indoor matches on the road.

"They played hard," he said. "They got better in doubles today than I thought, actually, for not even working on doubles teams this week, so overall I was pretty pleased with what I saw."

The absence of Megan Alexander wasn't UF's only worry. The team lost three of its four road matches, all of which were by the score of 4-3. Getting back to Linder Stadium was welcome, yet may have come too soon.

"I knew it was going to be tough to play today because, physically, we're not back from the indoors, really, and we had really no practice this week," Thornqvist said.

"Physically, we're not 100 percent. We got up at 4:30 Monday morning, you know, so Monday wasn't a day off for them. Then took Tuesday off, start practice Wednesday, so today was tough to play."

The Gators hit the road again Saturday, traveling to Florida State at 1 p.m.

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