Florida’s men’s tennis team was winless against opponents ranked in the top 15 through its first six matches this season. The No. 23 Gators (4-3) continued that trend last weekend, falling to No. 6 Ohio State (12-1) for UF’s third loss in its last four matches.
"I really like my team and believe we are on our way," coach Bryan Shelton said in a release. "The margins are small between winning and losing these matches, so we’ll keep working to find that edge."
Ohio State defeated Florida 4-3 at the Stickney Tennis Center in Columbus on Sunday afternoon in a thrilling match that came down to a singles battle between UF’s Diego Hidalgo and OSU’s Mikael Torpegaard. Torpegaard took Hidalgo to three sets, ultimately coming out on top in a 7-6, 2-6, 6-2 win to seal the victory for the Buckeyes.
The Gators had an uncharacteristic start to their day, losing the doubles point of a match for only the second time this season. UF’s No. 1-ranked pair of Hidalgo and Gordon Watson lost their first doubles set of the year, dropping to Torpegaard and Herkko Pollanen 6-3.
UF juniors Maxx Lipman and Elliott Orkin got off to a good start, taking a 2-0 lead early on in their bout with OSU’s Ralf Steinbach and Martin Joyce. However, Steinbach and Joyce would win six of the final eight games against Lipman and Orkin, clinching the set 6-4 and giving Ohio State an early 1-0 lead over the Gators.
Florida would then move on to play in its most competitive series of singles matches so far this year, with four of the six matchups going to a decisive third set.
Watson was the first UF player to finish play, falling to Steinbach 6-1, 6-4 and giving the Buckeyes a 2-0 lead.
Florida would then come back to tie the score at 2-2 when freshman Alfredo Perez won his match over Chris Diaz 6-2, 7-5 and Orkin finished off Hugo Di Feo 1-6, 6-2, 6-4.
After two more three-set victories from the Buckeyes’ Joyce and the Gators’ Chase Perez-Blanco, the score was knotted up at 3-3 with one more match still to finish.
The No. 5-ranked Torpegaard squared off with Hidalgo on Court One, splitting the first two sets of the match in a back and forth fight. With both teams cheering on their teammate from the sidelines, Torpegaard would ultimately get the best of Hidalgo behind multiple service aces in the final set to clinch a 4-3 Ohio State win.
The Gators return to Gainesville to take on Florida State on Saturday at 1 p.m. Following the match against FSU, the Gators kick off SEC play with matchups scheduled against LSU on March 4 and Texas A&M on March 6.
Diego Hidalgo returns a serve during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.