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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

A double fault.

That's how the No. 10 UF men's tennis team's season ended on Saturday when it lost 4-3 after squandering a 3-0 lead against in-state rival Miami to lose a Sweet 16 bid. The No. 22 Hurricanes, who the Gators defeated 5-2 on Feb. 22, earned a berth to College Station, Texas, with their second-round victory.

"We were very close to winning, but we didn't win because Miami played better," UF coach Andy Jackson said. "I thought they were tough, very fit, very well-coached, played very hard and they deserved to win."

With the score 3-3, the Gators' hopes rested on team leader Antoine Benneteau's shoulders. The junior fought cramping, heat and a game opponent for nearly three and a half hours.

Serving for the final point this spring, Benneteau double faulted, falling to Carl Sundberg 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1.

Benneteau made no excuses for the defeat and, as usual, handled himself with dignity while Miami celebrated.

"The guy made me tired, so all the credit is to him," Benneteau said. "He made me be in this state, so I just have to dig harder, get fitter to be able to next time win these kinds of matches."

The Gators started off as hot as the 90-degree temperature, taking the doubles point with wins on courts 2 and 3 in 47 minutes.

Sophomore Jeff Dadamo, the only player to not reach a third set in a epic match that went over four hours, notched the second point for the Gators with a 7-6 (5), 6-4 singles win.

Freshman Joey Burkhardt followed that up with a 6-1, 2-6, 6-2 victory against Keith Crowley, positioning UF one point away from advancing to College Station.

But after two hours of play, the tide began to turn in the Hurricanes' favor.

No. 33 Alex Lacroix didn't win a single game in the third set of his loss to David Rosenfeld 4-6, 6-2, 6-0. Christian Blocker then brought the Miami faithful to their feet by outlasting Johnny Hamui 6-4, 1-6, 6-2.

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It seemed Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Carlos Cueto would seal the deal for the Gators as he was serving for the match winner. But then Miami's No. 13 Daniel Vallverdu, who sat out the prior meeting - UF win - came back to top Cueto 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Jackson summed up the season as a success, though he expressed disappointment in not advancing to the next round.

"I'm very proud of my team, particularly our effort," he said. "We just weren't quite good enough today.

"In terms of the rankings, we're going to finish top 10 because of a lot of quality wins, but we never really got over the hump to do what we felt we could do. But it wasn't for lack of trying or heart the guys put into it."

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