The Florida men’s tennis team has been defined by two trends so far this season.
First, the Gators have been unstoppable in front of their fans at the Ring Tennis Complex, boasting a flawless 5-0 record. Second, UF has struggled to seize opportunities against elite-level programs, sporting a lackluster 0-4 record versus teams ranked in the top 15.
Tonight, however, one of those two streaks will end, as No. 24 Florida (7-4, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) faces No. 13 Arkansas (13-3, 3-1 SEC) at 5 in Gainesville.
The Razorbacks will be by far the most talented team the Gators have faced at home to this point in the season, with UF having previously battled only one top-60 team at the Ring Tennis Complex and none inside the top 30.
Arkansas has won 10 of its last 11 matches, including a win last Friday against then-No. 7 Texas A&M, and the Razorbacks also feature one of the SEC’s top singles players in redshirt junior Mike Redlicki.
Florida’s home schedule will continue to toughen, though, with three more matchups in Gainesville against top 25 teams. Ole Miss comes to town on Sunday, Virginia visits on April 6 and Kentucky comes to town on April 15.
A large emphasis is being placed on conditioning over the final month of the regular season for Florida, as UF does not have more than five days off between matches for the rest of the spring.
"We’ve got to take care of our bodies," coach Bryan Shelton said. "We’re going to continue to train and continue to push, but do it the right way so that our guys can be fresh and ready to go every weekend."
Four of the Gators’ next six matches will also be played at home, which provides a huge boost to the players’ confidence.
"They really energize us," sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco said. "When it’s a big point, they pump us up, so it’s a lot of fun to play here at home."
Perez-Blanco and his teammates are coming off of one of their most impressive victories of the season last Friday, defeating Auburn 7-0 at home in a match during which the Gators won every singles and doubles set that was played to completion.
"We’re getting ready for a big run," freshman McClain Kessler said. "I feel it."
Chase Perez-Blanco had an emotion-filled evening as he was one of three seniors honored at Florida's Senior Day match against Alabama. He won his singles set and helped set the tone for a sweep of the Crimson Tide on Friday.