With a clear sky and 56-degree weather, the action at Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex was at full-scale Saturday as Florida took on FAU, kicking off their 2021 campaign.
But the near sixty-minute singles matchup between Vale and Maxime Lapraille captivated the crowd
Frustration in the form of curses and self-criticisms echoed through the cold, 56-degree air, as the rallies seemed non-stop between serves. Tiebreakers littered each set, but through it all, Vale remained strong and defeated Lapraille 7-6 (5), 6-3.
“When you’re trying to close out the match, you really want to be focused on yourself and like the things you’ve been doing that were effective to get you to that point,” Vale said. “You have to keep focus in the moment and take the pressure off [yourself].”
Vale’s success paved the way for Florida’s eventual sweep of FAU, going 7-0 across all matches. The Gators’ dominance over the Owls was capped by Ben Shelton and No. 12 Duarte Vale who claimed victories in their doubles match. Also claiming their first wins of the season were No. 8 Sam Riffice, No. 68 Blaise Bicknell, and No. 85 Andy Andrade. The Gator duos paved the way for Saturday when they swept the floor of every pair that FAU had to offer. Senior Andy Andrade and sophomore Blaise Bicknell had the hardest fought match which ended in a 7-6 nailbiter after being locked at six sets for more than 20 min.
The doubles heavyweight matchup featured No. 45 Duarte Vale and Sam Riffice going against FAU’s Maxime Lapraille and Filip Krolo. Lapraille represented both the doubles and singles for FAU and shined in both categories. Vale returns as the team captain for Florida and his chemistry with Riffice is seen on the court with well-heard communication from both players.
Even when the two would become frustrated with their own play, their partner was always there to gather the blame or give them a simple fist bump to calm the situation. After fighting for 47 minutes, the match closed with Vale and Riffice claiming victory at 6-3.
Freshman and head coach’s son Ben Shelton debuted in both singles and doubles action, where he came out on top against freshman Gerard Escandell. The doubles victory came when Shelton and Johannes Ingildsen defeated Alvaro Fernandez Horta and Kevin Huempfner.
“He’s [Ben] been super pumped to be out there on the court and represent the Gators,” he said. “He’s been watching now for the last nine years here in Gainesville. To have the opportunity to be out there himself and play. I’m just really happy for him”
Florida continues its back-to-back matchups on Sunday Jan. 16, when it will face off against USF. The meet can be streamed at FloridaGators.com.
Contact Jesse Richardson at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352