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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
<p>Diego Hidalgo returns a serve during Florida's 6-1 win over Troy on Jan. 17, 2016, at the Ring Tennis Complex.</p>

Diego Hidalgo returns a serve 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 reached the quarterfinals of the NCAA Championship in over a decade.

However, that drought may soon be over.

The No. 9 Gators (20-6) will be in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on Friday afternoon, where they will take on No. 30 SMU (22-8) in the Round of 16 of the NCAA Championship.

UF is coming off back-to-back sweeps over North Florida and South Florida in the first two rounds of the tournament last weekend, continuing a recent stretch that’s seen the Gators play some of their best tennis in years.

Florida has won eight-consecutive matches dating back to April 10, the program’s longest winning streak over the last six seasons.

As UF has tacked on victory after victory into the record book, the game has also become more exciting or the Gators to play.

“I think throughout these past five or six weeks we have gathered some momentum,” coach Bryan Shelton said in a release. “… Our guys are having fun playing and if we get down a little bit, our guys don’t flinch. We just keep playing. I think that is the belief and trust between these guys and in one another.”

Florida has been led this postseason by the duo of senior Gordon Watson and freshman Alfredo Perez. Watson and Perez are a collective 8-0 in singles contests since the Southeastern Conference Tournament began on April 22, and the twosome also accounts for three of the Gators five match-clinching wins.

Watson and Perez have been great in doubles play as well. Watson and his partner, senior Diego Hidalgo, are currently ranked as the No. 1 doubles tandem in the country and are 4-0 in postseason competition.

Perez and his partner, sophomore Chase Perez-Blanco, have been just as solid, clinching the doubles point in a match twice and holding a 3-0 record since the regular season ended.

For SMU, the Mustangs are in the Round of 16 for the first time since 2001 after knocking off Washington and Texas Tech in the first two rounds of the tournament.

SMU has two players nationally ranked in the top 125 in redshirt junior Hunter Johnson and redshirt senior Nate Lammons. Johnson is 12-6 in dual singles matches this season, while Lammons is 19-4.

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UF is undefeated this year against teams ranked outside the top 15. If the Gators continue that trend and defeat the Mustangs, they will face either No. 1 Virginia or No. 16 Oklahoma State in the quarterfinals on Sunday.

Play between Florida and SMU begins on Friday at 1 p.m.

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

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