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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Florida men’s tennis rebounds from Friday loss

<p>Diego Hidalgo returns a ball during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.</p>

Diego Hidalgo returns a ball during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.

The Florida men’s tennis team hasn’t flinched in recent years when taking on South Carolina.

Since 2002, UF has dominated the Gamecocks, winning 17 of the last 18 matchups before Sunday.

That trend continued for the Gators, as No. 14 Florida (13-6, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) handily defeated South Carolina (11-13, 3-7 SEC) 6-1 at the Carolina Tennis Center.

"I am really proud of our guys today," coach Bryan Shelton said in a release. "I love how our team bounced back strong and showed a great deal of resilience. The match was a great win for our team."

After losing back-to-back contests against Virginia and Georgia earlier last week, UF responded on Sunday by winning 14 out of 16 total singles and doubles sets to give Florida its first five-point victory since March 20 against Ole Miss.

"It started with a productive practice (Saturday) with purpose and energy," Shelton said. "We will continue to stay the course and do the right thing no matter the score or result, and that will continue to grow our program."

UF’s senior co-captain Diego Hidalgo continued his stellar play, knocking off Gabriel Friedrich 6-4, 7-5 to clinch the match for the Gators. Hidalgo is now 10-2 in singles play since Feb. 27.

Sophomore Jordan Belga made his first appearance for Florida in over two months, besting Wood Benton by a score of 4-6, 6-4, 6-0. Belga played in place of freshman McClain Kessler, who missed his second-straight match with a lower body injury.

Junior co-captain Elliott Orkin, sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco and freshman Alfredo Perez rounded out UF’s wins in singles, with each player beating his opponent in straight sets. Orkin had lost his previous three singles matches entering Sunday, while Perez-Blanco and Perez had dropped their previous two.

The Gators were just as impressive in doubles competition, where Orkin and junior Maxx Lipman set the tone early with a 6-1 victory over Alex Fennell and Sam Swank.

Perez and Perez-Blanco would then seal the doubles point for Florida, taking their set 6-4 against Benton and Andrew Schafer for the duo’s eighth win this spring.

Sunday’s victory barely kept UF’s regular season SEC championship aspirations afloat. The Gators are two matches behind Georgia in the conference standings with two contests remaining on the schedule for both teams.

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"We have got to get back home and get better this week," Shelton said.

"We are looking forward to the challenges ahead."

The Gators will host Kentucky on April 15 and Tennessee on April 17, while the Bulldogs will be on the road at Arkansas on April 15 and Ole Miss on April 17.

Contact Dylan Dixon at ddixon@alligator.org and you can follow him on Twitter @dylanrdixon

Diego Hidalgo returns a ball during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.

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