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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
<p>UF men's tennis coach Bryan Shelton looks on during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex. </p>

UF men's tennis coach Bryan Shelton looks on during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex. 

Doubles competition is sometimes overlooked in collegiate tennis.

The matches are shorter, worth less points and may be viewed as a warm up to the main event of singles play.

However, for Florida men’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton, playing well in the doubles portion of a match is crucial in defeating an opponent.

"Doubles is like a pressure cooker because it’s a six game set, so it’s really fast paced," Shelton said.

"If you don’t get off to a good start, it’s easy to be out of (a match) quickly."

Through the first four matches of the year, the No. 20 Gators have gone 8-1 in doubles play, winning the doubles point all four times.

Experience has been key for the Gators’ early success. Florida’s top two doubles tandems are the No. 3-ranked duo of seniors Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson and the 40th-ranked pair of juniors Elliott Orkin and Maxx Lipman.

Both duos played together last year, and the experience each has gained playing with his partner shows in their records this season. Lipman and Orkin are 3-0 together, while Hidalgo and Watson are 2-0, including a victory last Sunday against Texas Tech’s Hugo Dojas and Felipe Soares, the No. 2-ranked tandem in the country.

"Those guys kind of understand the balance of how to come out with good energy but not be too hyped where they can’t execute," Shelton said. "And I think they understand each other out there. The chemistry is really good."

The Gators third pair in the lineup has typically been sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco and redshirt sophomore Joshua Wardell, who are 1-0 together this season.

However, Shelton has mixed and matched with different combinations for UF’s third duo.

Sophomore Jordan Belga and freshman McClain Kessler won together against Stetson in the only doubles match either player has appeared in this season. Freshman Alfredo Perez has also appeared in one doubles match, winning against Stetson with Wardell as his partner.

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Shelton said he has seen great improvement with his team’s play from the start of the season to now, but that won’t stop the team from continuing to grind.

"One of the things I wanted to do after our doubleheader here at home was to really work on our doubles play and try to get that back to where it was at the end of the fall," Shelton said.

"And I (feel) like we’ve made some great strides in that. … I’m pleased with the progress that we’ve made in a short amount of time to get that back to where (we) need to be and we’ve just got to keep working at it."

Shelton and the Gators only have one more day before they hit the road again.

The Gators will travel to Los Angeles this weekend to take on the No. 8 USC Trojans on Saturday at 1 p.m. followed by a bout with the No. 12 UCLA Bruins on Sunday at 4 p.m.

Contact Dylan Dixon ddixon@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon

UF men's tennis coach Bryan Shelton looks on during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex. 

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