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Friday, January 28, 2022

Florida shows off at Gator Fall Invite, starts season with authority

The Gators men’s tennis team impressed at the Gator Fall Invite to start the 2021-22 season

<p>Florida&#x27;s Andy Andrade returns a ball against Auburn on Feb. 21. </p>

Florida's Andy Andrade returns a ball against Auburn on Feb. 21.

The reigning NCAA champions looked to make a statement to start the 2021-22 season and did just that this weekend. 

The Gators men’s tennis team finished 25-8 at the Gator Fall Invite over three days of play at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex. Florida hosted Central Florida, NC State, and South Carolina for the competition. 

Florida went 10-2 on Friday. The highlight of the day came when Florida’s No. 57-ranked doubles duo of freshman Abedallah Shelbayh and graduate transfer Mattias Siimar upset UCF’s No. 3-ranked tandem of Bogdan Pavel and Trey Hilderbrand, 8-4. 

The Gators senior Andy Andrade and sophomore Will Grant quickly triumphed over JC Roddick and Kento Yamada in dominating fashion, 8-1. Roddick arrived at UCF as the No. 2 recruit in the country in the class of 2021. 

No. 33 Florida junior Blaise Bicknell beat No. 88 Yamada 4-6, 7-6 (2), 6-4 in singles to remain undefeated at 33-0 since the beginning of last season. Sophomore Ben Shelton concluded the day with a match versus Hilderbrand where coach Bryan Shelton’s son fell, 7-5, 4-6, 4-6.  

Florida ended day one grabbing three out of four doubles matches and seven out of eight in singles. 

The Gators started shaky on the second day,  splitting their doubles matches. Siimar and Shelbayh picked up their second win of the tournament over NC State’s No. 49-ranked duo Yannai Barkai and Braden Shick, 8-3. Florida seniors Lukas Grief and Josh Goodger dispatched Joseph Schrader and Collin Shick, 8-5, to give the Gators their second doubles win of the day. 

UF once again impressed during singles. No. 14 Andrade exacted some revenge for his doubles loss with a shutout second set in his matchup against Damien Salvestre, 6-2, 6-0. 

The Wolfpack’s Yanai Barkai got the better of Shelbayh however, winning 5-7, 0-1, and handing Florida its only singles loss of the day. Shelbayh retired from the match in the second set, his final action of the weekend. 

Day two wrapped up with the Gators tallying nine victories, including two of their four doubles matches and once again winning seven of eight singles matches.

On the third and final day of the tournament, the team clashed with SEC foe South Carolina and secured only six wins.

Siimar and Shelton teamed up for the first time and handled Connor Thomson and Jake Beasley 8-5, giving Siimar an undefeated 5-0 record in the tournament. 

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The singles matches were hard-fought, with half of the first sets heading into tiebreakers and half of the matches won in three sets. 

Andrade provided the highlight of the day, winning his match versus No. 16 Thomson 6-4, 6-4 while Shelton got his first ranked singles win of the season after beating No. 56 Story 7-6 (4), 7-6 (5). 

The Gators finished day three with six wins and the tournament with an overall record of 25-8 across the weekend. 

The team will look to ride this momentum heading into the Laver Cup in Boston, which starts Sept. 24. 

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

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