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Friday, April 12, 2024

Florida defeats Texas 4-0, advances to first championship in program history

No. 1 Gators will face No. 2 Baylor in NCAA final

<p>Florida&#x27;s Andy Andrade returns a ball against Auburn February 21. Andrade clinched the winning point to send the Gators to the national championship.</p>

Florida's Andy Andrade returns a ball against Auburn February 21. Andrade clinched the winning point to send the Gators to the national championship.

Senior Andy Andrade saw Siem Woldeab approach the net. Moving to his right, Andrade unleashed a perfectly placed forehand down the line that froze Woldeab in no man's land. 

It was match point, and the Gators were a win away from sweeping Texas. Serving to keep his season alive, Woldeab double faulted under the pressure.

The Florida squad embraced around Andrade on court three. The celebration was relatively subdued, because the Gators knew they were now just one match away from claiming the program’s first national championship.

Florida men’s tennis defeated the Texas Longhorns 4-0 on Friday night and will face second-seeded Baylor in the NCAA final on Saturday.

Looking to bounce back from Thursday night's defeat in the doubles point against Texas A&M, Florida rolled with the same partnerships on all three courts.  

Senior Brian Berdusco and sophomore Will Grant struck first for the Gators, defeating Payton Holden and Micah Braswell 6-2 on court three behind Grant’s stellar individual performance. Both Gators played strong, consistent tennis and the sophomore’s overpowering forehand proved too much for the Texas duo to handle.

The best viewing of the doubles portion was on court two. Junior Sam Riffice and freshman Ben Shelton faced off against Cleeve Harper and Chih Chi Huang in a match filled with highlight-reel plays. Shelton and Riffice used their court speed to play fluid, athletic tennis and outran the Longhorns to the tune of a 6-4 victory to clinch the first point of the match for Florida.

On court one, Seniors Duarte Vale and Johannes Ingildsen played weak and defensive, quickly falling behind 5-1 to the comparatively aggressive Eliot Spizzirri and Woldeab. Vale and Ingildsen battled back to 5-5 before Florida’s victory on court two secured the doubles point for the Gators.

Florida was three wins away from its first tournament final in program history.

The Gators singles specialists, sophomore Blaise Bicknell and senior Andy Andrade, both won their first sets easily. 

Shelton took the lead against Huang shortly after on court five, shouting excitedly across courts to his teammates as he served out the set. The Florida freshman brought energy all night; his confident, front-footed performance encapsulated the competitive and mental edge the Gators showed in Friday’s gutsy showing.

Vale, who defeated SEC Player of the Year Valentin Vacherot in singles Thursday, fought back from down a break to take the first set against Spizzirri 6-4.

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In the second set on court five, Shelton caught fire and earned Florida’s second point in straight sets, 6-3, 6-0. Moments later, rain began to fall in Orlando and the Gators were forced to suffer through a second weather delay in two days.

Within ten minutes of play restarting, Bicknell closed out Harper 6-1, 7-5 to earn Florida’s third point.

The Longhorns fought off match points on courts one and three against veterans Vale and Andrade to keep their championship hopes alive, but Andrade defeated Woldeab 6-3, 7-5 not long after to seal Florida’s spot in the tournament final.

The Gators play for the national championship on Saturday night, and first serve is expected at 7:30 p.m. The match will be televised live on the Tennis channel and is available for streaming at tennischannel.com/watchnow. Be sure to check floridagators.com for live updates.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at rzehnder@ufl.edu and follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder

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