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Friday, May 27, 2022
<p>Freshman Duarte Vale dropped his singles matchup in a three-set thriller to allow Mississippi State to take the meet. </p>

Freshman Duarte Vale dropped his singles matchup in a three-set thriller to allow Mississippi State to take the meet. 

The No. 9 Florida men’s tennis team started strong Friday against Mississippi State but could not finish in singles play, resulting in a loss to the Bulldogs 5-2.

The Gators (7-5, 2-1 SEC) continued their strong doubles play in a thrilling match. The No. 10 duo of freshman Oliver Crawford and senior Chase Perez-Blanco once again had a strong performance as they easily won their set 6-2 for their third consecutive doubles victory.

After junior McClain Kessler and freshman Duarte Vale lost their match, all eyes were on the No. 1-ranked doubles pairing in the nation.

Sophomore Johannes Ingildsen and junior Alfredo Perez fought back twice to send the match into a tiebreaker. After a long back-and-forth rally, the duo won the set to deliver Florida’s third consecutive doubles point.

In singles, however, the Gators found little success.

Perez looked to show improvement on Court 1 after losing in straight sets to Tennessee’s Timo Stodder on March 4.

While he came out strong against Mississippi State’s Nuno Borges, Perez squandered his early 4-1 lead in the first set. The junior could not recover and lost in straight sets for the second match in a row 7-5, 6-2.

Ingildsen also had a frustrating day in singles on Court 2. The Denmark native gave away a 3-1 lead in the second set on his way to lose in straight sets as well.

The Gators had severe difficulties closing out their matches. Of the four singles matches that went to three sets, Florida lost three of them.

Perez-Blanco fought to a third set on Court 6 but blew his own 3-1 lead, eventually losing the set. Perez-Blanco dominated the second set of his match, winning 6-1, but was far too inconsistent on his serves in the third, resulting in the loss.

Vale stumbled in the third set of his match on Court 4, losing 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 to give Mississippi State (8-1, 2-0 SEC) its match-clinching fourth point.

Freshman Andy Andrade also lost his match in three sets 7-5, 5-7, 7-6.

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"I have to give Mississippi State a lot of credit for bouncing back after we won an exciting doubles point,” coach Bryan Shelton said. “Our guys did not pay confidently in singles and we have to be mentally tougher against a very good team on the road."

On a disappointing day, UF did have one positive.

Crawford, who was named SEC Freshman of the Week after a solid opening week of conference play, was the sole winner in singles after he defeated Strahinja Rakic 6-4, 6-7, 1-0.

Crawford’s wins in both doubles and singles move him to an overall record of 6-0 in conference play. But it was not enough for his team on Friday.

The loss snapped Florida’s three-match win streak over Mississippi dating back to the 2016 season. This was also Florida’s first loss after winning the doubles point.

The Gators will have little time for adjustments as they travel Auburn on Sunday to take on the Tigers. The match is set to begin at 2 p.m.

Follow Dylan Rudolph on Twitter @dyrudolph and contact him at drudolph@alligator.org.

Freshman Duarte Vale dropped his singles matchup in a three-set thriller to allow Mississippi State to take the meet. 

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