As the season’s halfway mark approaches, the Gators rampaged opponent after opponent. Captains Duarte Vale and Sam Riffice and freshman Ben Shelton collaborated to compile an impressive seven-game win streak.
But one sophomore rampaged on a different tier. His feet glide on the court and force his opponents to play catch up. His serves seem almost unreturnable.
Blaise Bicknell’s racket caught fire as he boasts a perfect 9-0 record in duals competition. The most recent matchups were annihilations against Georgia’s Billy Rowe (6-0, 6-3) and Tennessee’s Giles Hussey (6-3, 6-2). He even became SEC Newcomer of the Week March 3.
Before his days at Florida, the five-star recruit was highly sought after. Bicknell ranked No. 3 in Florida and No. 10 nationwide.
The Miami native discovered his spark his freshman year after he won seven straight matches. The COVID-19 pandemic halted the season, and since then, Bicknell hasn’t looked back. He topped opponents from LSU, UCF, and even Alabama.
When asked about his feelings toward earning the reward, Bicknell simply replied:
“Yeah. It feels good.”
But the reward isn’t Bicknell’s focus. Instead, he gets into practice to take on top teams like No. 14 Georgia and No. 3 Tennessee.
The sophomore also showed little interest in his undefeated singles record and even refused to comment on a topic that didn’t regard the future duals.
Bicknell remarks that he zeros in on the Gators as a whole. He wants nothing more than for the scoreboard to fall in the Gators’ favor.When it comes to a new opponent, Bicknell said the team is beyond prepared. No matter who stands on the other side of the net, they will give their all on the floor.
In fact, Bicknell’s his strategy relies heavily on his speed, an attribute he said he brings day in and day out.
“Naturally, people don’t love playing me because they know they’re gonna have to run,” he said.
Bicknell backed up those words March 7 when he outran Tennessee’s Giles Hussey in two sets that weren’t even close. Hussey stole a game within the first few minutes, but that only motivated Bicknell to step on the gas pedal more.
The umpire called the match after a 6-3, 6-2 final. Hussey appeared drenched head to toe in sweat. Bicknell celebrated his win with a few fist pumps, a high five to teammate Sam Goodger and a quiet walk to his bench to change his shoes.
Some younger teammates, such as freshman Ben Shelton, admire Bicknell.
“He’s on fire,” Shelton said. “I look up to him a little bit. He has such an explosive game, and I try to do some of the same things he does.”
Shelton pays attention to every last detail — whether it’s Bicknell’s body language during returns or the way his feet move.
“It’s just incredible, like the forehands he hits or the types of spins he puts on the ball are different than anyone I’ve ever seen,” Shelton said.
Although Bicknell seemed detached from his undefeated solo record, Shelton said the team believes Blaise can claim a perfect record.
Bicknell and the rest of the Gators will travel through the Magnolia State this weekend. Up first on Friday is the Rebels of Ole Miss who currently stand at 5-5 and then the teams hops on the bus again to Mississippi State on Sunday.
Contact Jesse Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352