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Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Seeing double: Riffice wins individual singles championship for second title in five days

Junior Sam Riffice defeated No. 2 Daniel Rodrigues in three sets to win the national title

Florida's Sam Riffice prepares to return a ball against South Florida on May 9. Riffice defeated South Carolina's Daniel Rodrigues 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to win the individual singles national championship Friday afternoon.
Florida's Sam Riffice prepares to return a ball against South Florida on May 9. Riffice defeated South Carolina's Daniel Rodrigues 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 to win the individual singles national championship Friday afternoon.

Minutes away from winning his second national championship in five days, Sam Riffice watched as Daniel Rodrigues lunged to return his powerful serve. Florida’s tennis captain bounced on the balls of his feet and waited as Rodrigues sent the ball back to his side of the net. 

The ball landed inches behind the baseline, and Riffice dropped his racket to the court, tapped his chest with both hands and extended his arms out wide, a smile creeping across his face. 

The junior Florida tennis star is a double national champion after winning the individual singles final on Friday afternoon over Rodrigues.

Down in the first set 4-1, the Orlando native initially looked outmatched against No. 2 Rodrigues. When Riffice finally settled deep into the frame, the South Carolina star’s lead was too much to overcome; he took the set 6-3. 

Riffice exploded in the second set, breaking Rodrigues’ serve twice to even the match at one set apiece. Rodrigues double-faulted with Riffice up 4-1 to hand the Florida junior his second break of the set. 

Knotted at 4-4 in the final set and a point away from breaking, Riffice rushed the net and forced a reflex shot from Rodrigues that landed deep and out. The junior served out the match to cap a championship season for both himself and his team.

Riffice defeated SEC Player of the Year Valentin Vacherot, No. 1 Liam Draxl and No. 2 Rodrigues in his final three matches.

Riffice’s national championship win marks the third singles title in program history and first in 22 years. Mark Merklein (1994) and Jeff Morrison (1999) previously won the honor while representing the orange and blue.

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

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