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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

The Gators lost two straight doubles points coming into Friday’s match and were on the brink of losing a third.

They found themselves in a dire situation after Alabama’s duo of Edson Ortiz and Marcelo Sepulveda Garza beat senior Johannes Ingildsen and freshman Will Grant 6-2 on Court 2.

Then, Florida’s duo of junior Oliver Crawford and sophomore Sam Riffice bounced back versus Patrick Kaukovalta and Alexey Nesterov, taking Court 1 6-3 and turning everyone’s attention to Court 3.

But juniors Duarte Vale and Josh Goodger for Florida wouldn’t let its losing streak in doubles slip to three, slamming a winner past the Crimson Tide’s’ Riccardo Roberto and Zhe Zhou to beat them 6-3.

UF opened SEC play, sweeping the No. 27 Crimson Tide (9-4) 7-0 on Friday night at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.

Coach Bryan Shelton was grateful the No. 6 Gators (11-2) performed better in doubles but feels there is still room to improve.

“We still made some mistakes with (doubles) tonight, stuff that we still got to clean up,” Shelton said. “We're still drifting back a little bit too much when we're at the net. A couple of our guys aren't (serving) and volleying and coming forward when they're supposed to. So we're going to make sure that we hold them accountable.”

After its loss to North Carolina at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championships, he said UNC beat UF with its serving and volleying.

With its recent bye week, Shelton added that they completed drills to help the team serve better to avoid serving the ball into the net.

“We brought out some brooms we stuck them through the net and had the guys really aiming to try to hit the brooms...because we were missing too many serves in the net,” Shelton said. “So the brooms kind of allowed us to visualize hitting a target that's two feet above the net.”

He said the drill paid off tonight because he noticed they made less serving errors.

To start off singles, UF was able to secure the first set on five out of six courts.

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No. 4 Riffice was the only singles player in orange and blue to fall in the first, dropping the first to Zhou 6-4 on Court 2.

No. 21 Vale started his match with a 4-1 lead over Bama’s No. 125 Roberto. But, Roberto won four-straight games to tie it up 4-4. However, Vale seized control again and took the first set 6-4 on Court 3.

On Court 4, No. 84 junior Andy Andrade found himself trailing 5-3 but surged back, winning four games to grab the 7-5 first-set victory

Next, Goodger grabbed the first set 6-1, but dropped the second 6-3, forcing his match on Court 5 to a decisive third set.

No. 90 freshman Blaise Bicknell earned the first-set win against Jeremy Gschwendtner 6-4. Gschwendtner succeeded in the second, winning 6-2.

No. 18 Crawford pushed UF’s lead to 2-0 in the match, beating No. 80 Ortiz in straight sets 6-0, 6-1 on Court 1.

After falling in the first set, Riffice fought back to force a third-set tiebreaker, winning 6-1.

Vale was the second Gator to win in singles, extending their lead to 3-0. He knocked off Roberto 6-4, 6-3.

Then, Andrade clinched the match for Florida. He topped Kaukovalta 7-5, 6-2.

Goodger was next as he triumphed over Alexey Nesterov 6-1, 3-6, 6-3.

Bicknell extended UF’s lead to 6-0, capturing the third set in a super tiebreaker 10-5 after he defeated Gschwendtner 6-4, 6-2, 10-5.

Finally, Riiffice sealed the sweep for Florida, beating Zhou 4-6, 6-1, 6-3.

The Gators will take on Auburn on Sunday at 12 p.m. at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex and Mercer after the conclusion of the Auburn match.

Follow Zach on Twitter @zacharyahuber and contact him at

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