When the sunset made its way behind the horizon, the Linder Stadium court lights flashed on. They didn’t just shine from above, but also from the athletes on the floor during the two top-ranked competitors’ battle.
The No. 2 Gators swept the No. 6 Texas Christian Horned Frogs Wednesday night and proved why they rank among the best in the nation. The shutout is Florida’s second in a row and fourth of the season.
When the Horned Frogs took an early advantage on all three doubles courts, there wasn't a happy Gator in sight. But a bad break turned into an opportunity for the Gators after TCU’s Bertus Kruger went down on court two.
The pain seemed to originate from Kuger’s left shoulder. He tried to shake off the pain during a brief rest while he lay in pain on the floor.
Once a player starts their singles or doubles match, they can’t call for a substitution. The injured player must give up a match and take a loss on their record.
Kruger stuck it out and adjusted his serves to keep the fight going. But captains Duarte Vale and Sam Riffice quickly exploited their opponent’s obvious weakness.
From that moment, Riffice and Vale aimed every shot directly where Kruger or his partner Luc Fomba couldn’t get to. Due to Kruger’s inability to be mobile around the court, perfect shots were set up for the Gators duo.
The Gators walked away with the doubles point advantage after court three duo freshman Ben Shelton and senior Andy Andrade bounced back. The two were down by two games but found their own way to win 6-4 over No. 24 duo Sander Jong and Tadaeas Paroulek.
The singles portion continues as the Florida roster’s strong suit. The starting six earned another consecutive victory that dates back to the previous matchup against Miss State.
Riffice and Vale came back to the courts to follow up on the doubles advantage, but the opponents on the other side of the net were no joke. Riffice lined up with No. 21 Alastair Gray while No. 12 Vale took on No. 47 Fomba.
Both matches seemed even at the start of the bouts, but it didn’t take long for Vale or Riffice to find their strides and blow their Horned Frog opponents.
No. 68 Blaise Bicknell refused to give in this season and overpowered his TCU foe No. 113 Sander Jong. Through three sets, he ensured Jing used every drop of fuel left in the tank. Bicknell walked off the court last and closed the night after a 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 final.
TCU’s emotions were kept in check throughout the duel. Umpired called on Alastair Gray, Tadaeas Paroulek and No. 125 Jake Fearnley, because they slammed their rackets to the floor.
The Gators will enjoy a few days of rest and practice before their archrival, Florida State, treks down I-75 Sunday afternoon. The match will begin at 2 p.m. and will stream on FloridaGators.com.
Contact Jesse Richardson at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @JesseRich352