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Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Riffice upsets No. 1 Draxl in three-set thriller, advances to individual final

The junior captain will face South Carolina’s Daniel Rodrigues Friday at noon for the title

Sam Riffice against TCU on March 17. Riffice is set to compete in the individual singles title match Friday.
Sam Riffice against TCU on March 17. Riffice is set to compete in the individual singles title match Friday.

Junior Sam Riffice will play for the individual singles title Friday.

Riffice reached the final after a three-set victory over No. 1 Liam Draxl, 7-6, 2-6, 6-1 of Kentucky Thursday afternoon.

Florida’s junior captain won the first set in a tiebreak before Draxl stormed back to dominate set two. The conference rivals were locked at a set a piece, but Draxl held the momentum after his tidy second-set performance. 

Riffice shifted into another gear in set three and left Draxl in the dust. Kentucky’s top-seeded star looked shell-shocked as Riffice cruised by him in the third set. In the end, the junior’s consistency across the court earned him a deserved championship berth.

Few expected the junior to make it this far, including Riffice himself. Moments after his team won the national title soon after midnight Sunday morning, Riffice was asked how prepared he was for the individual competition in light of the fact that he was starting later that day.

“I play at 6, I’m probably gonna wake up at 4:15,” Riffice said, laughing. “I’ll do my best.”

Riffice has won five consecutive matches against the top collegiate talent from across the country since that interview, and the Orlando native now has a chance to compete for the individual title Friday. 

The junior faces No. 2 Daniel Rodrigues of South Carolina Friday at noon. Stream the match live on the tennis.one app and make sure to check floridagators.com for live updates.

Contact Ryan Zehnder at rzehnder@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @ryan_zehnder.

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