One of the major goals the Florida men’s tennis team has set out to accomplish this season is to win the Southeastern Conference Tournament.
UF took an important step towards achieving that goal Friday night, when the No. 30 Gators (6-3, 1-0 SEC) kicked off regular season SEC play with a 4-3 victory over the No. 32 LSU Tigers (6-4, 0-1 SEC) at the LSU Tennis Complex.
Florida has been plagued by slow starts in doubles competition all year long, with things faring no differently for the Gators in Baton Rouge.
UF’s top duo of Diego Hidalgo and Gordon Watson dropped the first four games of their matchup with LSU’s Jordan Daigle and Boris Arias, ultimately losing the set 6-3.
Freshman Alfredo Perez and redshirt sophomore Joshua Wardell, playing together for the first time this spring, battled back and forth with the Tigers’ Gabor Csonka and Andrew Korinek. Csonka and Korinek would prevail in the end, winning the set 6-3 and giving LSU a 1-0 lead early on.
Despite losing the doubles point for the third time in their last five matches, the Gators dominated LSU in singles competition.
Perez knocked off Arias 6-0, 6-3 to raise his singles record in dual matches this season to 6-1. Co-captain Elliott Orkin then defeated LSU’s Justin Butsch 6-3, 6-4 to give UF a 2-1 lead.
Next to finish for Florida was freshman McClain Kessler, who won his match over Nikola Samardzic 7-5, 6-2 in straight sets.
Hidalgo clinched the victory for the Gators on Court 1, besting Diagle by a score of 6-0, 7-6.
UF has now won four consecutive matches over the LSU Tigers, with their last loss coming almost three years ago in a 4-2 defeat on March 29, 2013.
Friday night’s victory over LSU was also the first time this season the Gators have won a match after losing the doubles point. Florida has won three of their last four matches overall.
UF will continue their SEC road trip on Sunday when they head to College Station to take on the Texas A&M Aggies at 1 p.m.
Elliott Orkin returns a serve during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.