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Monday, May 23, 2022

Florida men’s tennis sweeps FSU 7-0

<p>Diego Hidalgo returns a ball during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.</p>

Diego Hidalgo returns a ball during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.

The Florida men’s tennis team increased their winning streak against Florida State University to eight consecutive matches this weekend.

The No. 41 Gators (5-3) defeated the No. 35 Seminoles (8-3) 7-0 on Saturday, playing in front of their home crowd at the Ring Tennis Complex for only the third time this season.

“It was a great day,” coach Bryan Shelton said in a release. “I was really anxious to see how our guys would respond after a tough loss to Ohio State and how they would react to a tough Florida State team that came in here with a lot of energy and would be well-prepared … I was really pleased with what I saw.”

While the Gators were strong in singles play from start to finish, they got off to a much slower start in doubles.

Florida State’s top pair of Benjamin Lock and Marco Nunez won a one-sided battle over UF’s Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson 6-1. Hidalgo and Watson, the nation’s No. 1-ranked tandem in the country, have now lost two consecutive doubles matches.

On Court 2, Maxx Lipman and Elliott Orkin fell behind to Florida State’s Michael Rinaldi and Aziz Dougaz 4-2 through the first six games of their set. However, as they have done multiple times this year, the two juniors made a strong comeback, winning five of their final six games to defeat Rinaldi and Dougaz 7-5.

That left it down to sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco and freshman Alfredo Perez, who were playing together for only the second time this spring. Facing the Seminoles’ Terrance Whitehurst and Jose Gracia, Perez and Perez-Blanco came out on top in a back and forth 7-6 win to clinch the doubles point and give UF a 1-0 lead.

“It was a lot of fun,” Perez-Blanco said in a release. “The energy was high. You could feel the crowd getting into it. Alfredo was playing some really good tennis. He saved me a couple times there. It was a lot of fun.”

In singles competition, freshman McClain Kessler and Watson were the first two Gators to finish their matches. Kessler defeated Gracia 6-3, 6-4, while Watson defeated Whitehurst 6-1, 6-4 to give the Gators a 3-0 lead.

Hidalgo sealed the victory for Florida, defeating Lock 6-3, 6-4 on Court 1. It was the second straight year that Hidalgo had the match clinching victory over FSU, defeating Nunez at Tallahassee in 2015.

While Hidalgo’s win over Lock clinched the victory for UF, that didn’t stop the rest of singles play from being suspenseful. Orkin, Perez-Blanco and Perez would all go to a 10-point tiebreaker in their respective singles matches after splitting the first two sets with their opponent.

Perez would be the first to finish, winning his tiebreaker 10-8 and his match against Dougaz 4-6, 7-5, 1-0. Orkin would follow suit, winning his tiebreaker against Nunez 10-4 to put his final tally at 6-7, 6-1, 1-0.

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Perez-Blanco would complete the sweep, winning his tiebreaker 10-3 to finish off Rinaldi 3-6, 7-5, 1-0.

Despite the sweep, the match was much closer than the final score suggested. Even though Florida won 14 of the 18 singles and doubles sets that were played on Saturday, 10 of those 14 sets were decided by two games or less.

With Saturday’s win, Florida State hasn’t knocked off the Gators in nine years, with FSU’s last victory over UF coming on Feb. 17, 2007 by a score of 4-3. Since then, Florida has won eight straight matches, outscoring the Seminoles by a combined total of 40-16 over that nine-year span.

UF will now transition to Southeastern Conference play, facing LSU on March 4 at 6:30 p.m. in Baton Rouge. The Gators will look to improve off their 2015 conference record of 8-4.

Contact Dylan Dixon at and follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon. 

Diego Hidalgo returns a ball during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.

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