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Friday, May 27, 2022
<p>Florida men's tennis player teammate McClain Kessler (above) and teammate Duarte Vale defeated UCF doubles pair Mikhail Sokolovskiy and Gabriel Decamps 6-4 on Monday. The Gators as a whole beat the Knights 6-1 for the team's 2018 home opener at the Ring Tennis Complex.</p>

Florida men's tennis player teammate McClain Kessler (above) and teammate Duarte Vale defeated UCF doubles pair Mikhail Sokolovskiy and Gabriel Decamps 6-4 on Monday. The Gators as a whole beat the Knights 6-1 for the team's 2018 home opener at the Ring Tennis Complex.

Court 6 at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex had all eyes on it on Friday night as junior McClain Kessler whooped and hollered his way to a match-clinching victory over Ole Miss.

The No. 9 Florida men’s tennis team defeated the Rebels 6-1 at home in Gainesville for its third consecutive win.

While Ole Miss (9-8, 1-6 SEC) came out strong, Florida (11-6, 6-1 SEC) held off the barrage and cruised to another victory.

In doubles, all three of UF’s pairs saw their fair share of struggles.

The No. 1-ranked doubles team of junior Alfredo Perez and sophomore Johannes Ingildsen failed to win a point in the first game of its set against junior Filip Kraljevic and senior Zvonimir Babic. However, the top-seeded duo recovered and swiftly dealt with Kraljevic and Babic 6-1 on Court 1.

This victory was the pair’s seventh doubles win in a row. Ingildsen and Perez are 7-1 this season when they play together.

On Court 3, the No. 8-ranked team of freshman Oliver Crawford and senior Chase Perez-Blanco also stumbled early on Court 3, trailing 3-1. The duo did not waver, though, and won five out the next six games to come back and win the set 6-4. The victory clinched UF’s third straight doubles point.

On Court 2, however, freshman Duarte Vale and junior McClain Kessler could not overcome their early struggles and lost the set 6-2.

“Across the board, we were not sharp in doubles,” coach Bryan Shelton said. “Although we got the doubles point, I was not really thrilled with how we played.”

In singles, the Rebels again came out aggressive. The Gators lost the first set on Courts 1, 2 and 4. However, Florida rallied again.

Crawford and Perez-Blanco carried their momentum into singles with strong play on their respective courts.

After he earned his third straight SEC Freshman of the Week honors on March 21, Crawford further elevated his game on Friday against Ole Miss. His 6-1, 6-1 victory over Babic on Court 3 was the freshman’s ninth straight singles win.

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Crawford remains undefeated in the SEC in both singles and doubles (12-0).

Perez-Blanco also continued to shine after he finished strong on Court 5 in a 6-2, 6-0 win. Shelton praised his senior’s poise after the match.

“(Perez-Blanco) has been very confident on the court,” Shelton said. “He takes the other guy’s best punch and continues to put pressure on.”

The win marked the Miami native’s fifth consecutive victory in singles.

Kessler’s 6-3, 6-2 win over Rebels’ freshman Finn Reynolds on Court 6 clinched the match and gave Florida its longest win streak of the season.

The team captain expressed his delight with the team’s performance during this streak.

“We’ve all been playing really well in practice,” Kessler said. “It’s good to see us all putting it all together for these past couple of matches.”

With the match clinched in Florida’s favor, the two teams decided to play out the remaining two matches on Courts 1 and 2.

On Court 1, Alfredo Perez dropped his first set but rallied to send the match into a 10-point tiebreak, where he came away with the 10-8 victory.

Ingildsen earned the Gators’ sixth point of the night on Court 2 after he rallied from a first-set loss as well to win 3-6, 6-2, 6-3.

Vale’s 6-2, 6-3 loss on Court 4 was the team’s only defeat. The loss was the freshman’s fourth consecutive singles defeat.

The Gators will have a day off to rest before they welcome Arkansas to the Ring Tennis Complex. This will be the team’s fourth SEC matchup in a row. First serves are set for 1 p.m.

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

Junior McClain Kessler's helped the UF men's tennis team to victory over South Carolina State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament with wins in both doubles and singles play. 

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