It was a situation the Florida men’s tennis team had failed to convert on all spring: winning the final singles point of a dual match with the score tied 3-3.
With the score knotted up against Mississippi State and the match on the line, senior Gordon Watson came up huge for UF, knocking off Bulldogs’ freshman Strahinja Rakic 7-5, 5-7, 6-3 to give No. 16 Florida (10-4, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) a 4-3 win at the Pitts Tennis Centre in Starkville.
“We are so proud of our guys,” volunteer assistant coach Scott Perelman said in a release. “Gordon Watson put us on his back and brought us home. He played his best tennis at the end of the match. We are all very happy for him.”
Despite coming out on top, the Gators put themselves in a hole early on against MSU (12-5, 4-3 SEC), dropping the match’s doubles point for the first time since March 4.
Freshman Alfredo Perez and sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco continued their strong play of late, winning their set over Rakic and Trevor Foshey 6-1.
However, UF’s other two pairs were unable to come out as winners.
The tandem of Orkin and junior Maxx Lipman struggled throughout their entire set, losing to Nuno Borges and Niclas Braun 6-1. Hidalgo and Watson then dropped their set against Mate Cutura and Vaughn Hunter 6-4, giving the Bulldogs an early 1-0 lead.
With Florida needing four singles victories in order to defeat Mississippi State, UF received impressive performances from Hidalgo, Orkin and freshman McClain Kessler.
Kessler was the first Gator to finish his match, making quick work of Foshey in a 6-3, 6-0 win.
After Perez and Perez-Blanco were defeated by Borges and Braun, Hidalgo and Orkin knocked off Cutura and Agarwal in three sets each to set up Watson’s match-clincher over Rakic.
Friday night’s win propelled the Gators into second place in the SEC. Florida has won six of its past seven matches, putting itself only a half game behind Georgia for the lead in the conference standings.
UF will now move on to Tuscaloosa, where they are set to take on Alabama on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Gordon Watson hits an underhand volley during Florida men's tennis' 4-3 loss to Ole Miss on Jan. 31, 2015 at the Ring Tennis Complex.