It has been a good week for Florida’s men’s tennis team.
First, the No. 22 Gators got to take a break from traveling after spending the previous two weekends on the road in Austin and Los Angeles.
Then, Florida’s top doubles pair of seniors Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson earned the No. 1 doubles tandem in the country on Wednesday afternoon.
The Gators (4-2) topped it off on Saturday when they ended their two match losing streak, defeating Furman (3-4) 7-0 at the Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville.
“Overall I was pleased with just how we competed,” UF coach Bryan Shelton said. “I didn’t feel like we came out and tried to do to much too early. It’s been a couple of weeks since we’ve competed, so it was nice to see our guys kinda take their time and find their rhythm.”
While the final score would suggest otherwise, Florida started out slow.
The Gators’ top doubles pair of Hidalgo and Watson faced Furman’s Ben Horst and Matt Browne. In their first match as the No. 1-ranked doubles duo in the country, the two seniors were unable to pull away early, splitting the first six games of the set 3-3.
Meanwhile on court two, juniors Elliott Orkin and Maxx Lipman fell behind to Furman’s Cameron Green and Adam Steryous 4-1.
However, from that point on, Florida took over.
Florida’s third doubles pair, freshman Alfredo Perez and sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco, made quick work of their opponents Stefan Rhodes and Alex Steryous in a fantastic 6-0 victory.
Hidalgo and Watson had a strong final three games against Horst and Browne, winning their match 6-3. Lipman and Orkin followed the same trend, winning their final five games and completing a miraculous 6-4 comeback win over Green and Steryous.
“We knew what we were doing wrong and how to fix it,” Lipman said. “We’ve been playing great doubles in the past and we’ve been playing really well in practice, and so there was really just no reason to panic.”
Florida’s confident and relaxed attitude transferred over to singles play. In six singles matches, the Gators dominated the Paladins, winning 12 out of 13 total sets.
Orkin, who is now Florida’s highest-ranked singles player, was the first Gator to finish his match, defeating Furman’s Browne 6-1, 6-2. Freshman McClain Kessler was next in line, beating Alex Steryous by a score of 6-1, 6-0.
“(McClain) loves the Gators,” coach Shelton said. “He loves being a Gator. He loves playing here. He’s wanted to be here his whole life. So now with the opportunity, you just want him to settle in a little bit, and I think he’s starting to do that.”
Following Kessler was Chase Perez-Blanco. Perez-Blanco, after falling behind 2-0 in his first set, won 12 straight games to win his match 6-2, 6-0.
“(Chase) had a really good week in practice this week,” Shelton said. “He played some good tennis, worked very hard, so it was good to see him out there not only competing but playing well.”
Perez-Blanco’s victory clinched the win for the Gators. Florida finished the sweep with a 6-3, 6-2 win by Watson, a 6-2, 6-3 win by Hidalgo and 6-1, 3-6, 1-0(6) win by Perez.
“Everybody played well,” Watson said. “Nobody got in trouble, nobody really had those dips and flows. Everybody played well and the score shows it.”
The Gators next face No. 8 Ohio State in Columbus on Feb. 21 at 12 p.m.
Contact Dylan Dixon at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @dylandrdixon
Diego Hidalgo returns a serve during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.