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Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Florida looks to start season strong at Gators Fall Invite

The reigning champions will host three opponents at tournament

<p>Florida&#x27;s Sam Riffice prepares to return a ball against South Florida on May 9. Riffice will attempt to help the Gators defend their first national title in school history. <br/><br/></p>

Florida's Sam Riffice prepares to return a ball against South Florida on May 9. Riffice will attempt to help the Gators defend their first national title in school history.

The Gators men’s tennis team's run to defend their first national championship in school history begins this weekend. 

Florida will host NC State, Central Florida and South Carolina at the Gators Fall Invite this weekend at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex. Action begins Friday at 10 a.m. when the Gators face the Knights. 

The matches will lead off with the doubles portion followed by singles action. Seniors Sam Riffice and Duarte Vale saw the most action in tandem in 2020, and they boasted a 13-7 overall doubles record. 

UF will play UCF on Friday, NC State on Saturday, and finish off the event with South Carolina on Sunday. The Gators last beat the Gamecocks in 2021 when they beat them 4-3. They also knocked off UCF 5-2 last season. 

Florida returns most of its key players from 2021, including Riffice, Vale, fellow seniors Josh Goodger and Andy Andrade, junior Blaise Bicknell and sophomore Ben Shelton. 

In the Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason rankings, eight Gators found their names on the list. Riffice entered the singles rankings No. 2 while Vale followed at No. 4 and Andrade at No. 14. 

Bicknell finished his sophomore campaign undefeated in singles, 22-0, and will look to extend his streak further. Coach Bryan Shelton dipped his hand into the NCAA transfer portal and grabbed graduate transfer Mattias Siimar from Michigan who earned All-American honors in doubles. 

The Gators finished last season with a 25-2 overall record and a 12-0 SEC record. The team, coming off an NCAA championship and a strong showing by both Shelton and Riffice at the US Open, look to replicate last season’s success and will get the chance to start off strong against UCF Friday. 

Contact Brian Olmo at bolmo@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter at @BrianOlmo0211.



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