After a strong finish last season and a successful fall, the Florida men’s tennis team finally hit the courts on Saturday for the first time since its Final Four appearance in 2019.
They did so with an important distinction for the first time in school history.
As the No. 1 team in the country.
The Gators were the top-ranked team in the country when the Oracle/ITA Preseason rankings were unveiled on Wednesday, and this weekend, they looked the part.
Florida demolished its two opponents on Saturday afternoon at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, first beating Furman 6-1 and then FAU 7-0 to start the season 2-0.
Despite UF’s remarkable play last season, it did have one Achilles Heel: doubles. In three of its four losses in 2019, it lost the doubles point.
However, against the Paladins, Florida won the doubles point with ease. Sophomores Sam Riffice and Harrison Cacciatore took their match 6-1 and Senior Johannes Ingildsen and freshman Will Grant clinched the point with a 6-3 win.
Singles were more of the same for the Gators. Freshman Blaise Bicknell won his first match in the orange and blue, winning 6-3, 6-0 on court five. No. 4 Riffice made it 3-0 with a 6-4, 6-1 victory on court one. Ingildsen clinched the match 6-1, 6-3 on court six.
UF elected to finish out the remaining matches and went nearly perfect the rest of the way. Juniors Duarte Vale and Oliver Crawford took their matches, but sophomore Lukas Greif lost in straight sets.
A brief intermission followed before the match against FAU. Doubles was once again easy against the Owls. Crawford and Riffice blanked Maxime Lapraille and A. Fernandez Horta with a 6-0 win and the point was clinched with a 6-1 decision for junior Josh Goodger and sophomore Greyson Cacciatore.
In singles, Florida was perfect this time. No. 14 Crawford was the first to win with a 6-0, 6-1 victory on court one. No. 17 Vale made it 3-0 on court two, securing a 6-4, 6-1 victory on court two. The match was clinched on court three by No. 72 sophomore Andy Andrade, 6-3, 6-1.
Just like against Furman, the Gators chose to finish out against Florida Atlantic. Goodger, Greif and Bicknell all acquired wins, finishing off the shutout.
UF will be back in action on Wednesday for one of its biggest matches on the season as it will take on reigning national champion, and No. 2 Texas at the Ring.
Follow Noah on Twitter @Noah_ram1 and contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Noah is a third year journalism-sports and media student from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. He has been with The Alligator since Spring 2019 and has covered men’s and women’s tennis, gymnastics and volleyball. When he isn’t on his beat, Noah is usually sadden over his beloved South Florida sports teams, such as the Heat and Dolphins.