Nothing in sports is guaranteed.
Florida’s men’s tennis team learned that lesson the hard way on Sunday afternoon.
After leading 3-0 halfway through their match against Texas Tech University, the No. 21 Gators crumbled under the pressure. Ultimately, they lost 4-3 following a valiant comeback by the No. 15 Red Raiders in the Texas Regional final of the 2016 ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Austin.
The loss eliminated Florida from a spot in the ITA Team Indoor Championship, squandering its opportunity to get back for the first time since 2014.
Sunday’s match against Texas Tech began with an intense battle between two of the top-ranked doubles tandems in the country. UF’s No. 3-ranked pair of seniors Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson defeated TTU’s No. 2-ranked duo of Felipe Soares and Hugo Dojas, winning the match 6-3.
Juniors Elliott Orkin and Maxx Lipman then defeated TTU’s Alex Sendegeya and Bjorn Thomson 6-4, sealing the doubles point and giving the Gators an early 1-0 lead over the Red Raiders.
Sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco and redshirt-sophomore Joshua Wardell’s match was then cut short after Orkin and Lipman guaranteed the Gators had won the doubles portion of the event.
The two teams then hit the court for singles play. UF freshman Alfredo Perez dominated, making quick work of TTU’s Sendegeya in a 6-3, 6-0 victory. Perez-Blanco followed in Perez’s footsteps, winning his match against TTU’s Jolan Cailleau 6-3, 6-4
The Gators at that point led 3-0 over the Red Raiders, needing only one more singles victory to clinch a win against Texas Tech. Hidalgo, Orkin, Lipman and freshman McClain Kessler were all still in the middle of their matches, all with an opportunity to send the Gators home as victors.
None of them could seal the deal.
Orkin was overmatched in his showdown against TTU’s Dojas, losing in straight sets 6-2, 6-4. Lipman was the next Gator to fall, also losing in straight sets to TTU’s Thomson 7-6, 6-4.
That left only Hidalgo and Kessler.
Kessler faced TTU sophomore Connor Curry. The freshman, who had won his first set against Curry 7-5, lacked consistency in his final two sets, losing both 6-3.
Curry’s victory tied the score at 3-3, meaning it would come down to Hidalgo vs. Soares. Playing on Court One, Soares completed the Texas Tech comeback and defeated Hidalgo 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, avenging his loss to Hidalgo in their doubles match earlier in the day.
The Gators will have about a week to recover from this devastating loss. The team’s next two matches will be in Los Angeles, where they will take on No. 8 USC on Jan. 30 and No. 12 UCLA on Jan. 31.
Diego Hidalgo returns a serve during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.