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Thursday, October 06, 2022
<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.

With the Southeastern Conference tournament set to begin on Wednesday, the Florida men’s tennis team had one final test to prepare itself for the postseason.

The No. 13 Gators (15-6, 10-2 SEC) passed that test, overpowering Tennessee 6-1 on Sunday afternoon at the Ring Tennis Complex.

"I thought that we just bounced back every time we needed to in the match," coach Bryan Shelton said. "Whether it was doubles or singles, when we got down a little bit our guys responded and really competed well."

It was an all-around team effort for UF in its regular-season finale, as Florida won the first two doubles sets and grabbed 11 of 13 singles sets in the victory.

Seniors Gordon Watson and Diego Hidalgo both took their singles matches in straight sets, playing in front of the home fans in Gainesville for potentially the last time in their careers.

"It was a special day," Watson said. "A bunch of family came up and friends from Naples and made it a great atmosphere, along with all the crowd. It’s the end of a regular season for me, but we’re looking forward to the SEC tournament to see what we can do."

Florida took a 1-0 lead early on over the Volunteers (11-16, 0-12 SEC) after Hidalgo and Watson defeated Jack Schipanski and Luis Valero 6-3 to clinch the doubles point.

Junior Maxx Lipman began singles play by knocking off Jack Heslin 7-6, 6-2 for his second win in SEC play this season.

Following a 6-4, 6-4 victory by Watson over Schipanski, junior Elliott Orkin sealed the contest for the Gators, taking down Timo Stodder 7-6, 6-4 for his fifth match-clincher of the spring.

"Clinching is always exciting," Orkin said. "It doesn’t really matter who clinches as long as we get the win, but to be able to finish it off today for our team today was really special."

Hidalgo, freshman Alfredo Perez and sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco rounded out singles competition for the Gators, with Hidalgo defeating Valero 7-6, 6-3. Perez took his first set over Igor Smelyanski 7-6 before the latter retired at the 5-3 mark in the second set. Perez-Blanco followed Perez's win by falling to Srdjan Jakovljevic 5-7, 6-4, 1-0.

UF will now head to Columbia, South Carolina for the SEC tournament. Florida will be the No. 2 seed, and will face either Vanderbilt or Ole Miss in its first match.

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"For us, going into the SEC tournament is really about just taking each moment one at a time, and enjoying it, and savoring it and making the most of it," Shelton said.

Contact Dylan Dixon at ddixon@alligator.org and 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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