In a season that’s been marred by a series of heartbreaking one-point losses, the Florida men’s tennis team may have hit rock bottom last Sunday following its 4-3 loss to the Texas A&M Aggies.
After taking an early lead over the reigning Southeastern Conference champions in doubles play, the Gators collapsed in the singles portion of the event, losing four out of six matches to drop UF’s record to 1-4 against teams ranked in the top 30 this spring.
“Losing is part of the equation, it’s part of the process,” head coach Bryan Shelton said. “You’ve got to learn from those matches and become better from them. We’ve had four tough 4-3 losses, so there’s two different ways we can go. We can either get soft, or we can get tough.”
The No. 25 Gators (6-4, 1-1 SEC) have plenty of time over the next month to rebound from their early season defeats, starting today when they take on the No. 64 Auburn Tigers (8-5, 0-2 SEC) at 5 p.m. at the Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville.
UF hasn’t had much trouble against Auburn in recent history, winning seven of its last eight matches against the Tigers dating back to 2010.
This season, Auburn is 0-5 against opponents ranked in the top 50 and only have one player ranked in the top 125 for singles. Florida currently has four players ranked in the top 75, however, no one on the Gators is taking Auburn for granted.
“They’re definitely a quality team,” junior co-captain Elliott Orkin said. “Each team and each player we face during the year, you know they’re gonna come out and they’re gonna want to beat the Florida Gators, so we’re taking them seriously.”
Today’s match against the Tigers is also the first of a three-game home stand for UF. The Gators are 4-0 in front of their home crowd at the Ring Tennis Complex this season, as opposed to their 2-4 record on the road.
Six of UF’s past eight matches have been away from Gainesville, so for players and coaches, it’s a relief to take a break from what’s been a hectic travel schedule.
“It’s always a tough environment when you play on the road in the SEC, so to come back this weekend and next weekend and play in front of our home fans is always big for us,” Orkin said. “We love playing in front of our home crowd and in front of our family and friends.”
Elliott Orkin returns a serve during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.