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Saturday, May 18, 2024

No. 1 Gators defeat No. 3 Texas to claim first win of the season

Florida bounced back from a tough loss with an impressive win over the Longhorns

<p>Florida’s Ben Shelton prepares to hit a ball against Auburn on Feb. 21, 2021. Shelton helped his team reach the Sweet 16 in a Saturday victory over Miami.</p>

Florida’s Ben Shelton prepares to hit a ball against Auburn on Feb. 21, 2021. Shelton helped his team reach the Sweet 16 in a Saturday victory over Miami.

Florida’s men’s tennis team improved to 1-1 on a challenging road trip to the Lone Star State, besting No. 3 Texas 4-3 on Sunday afternoon. 

A late comeback bid fell short for the Gators Friday against No. 5 TCU Friday and UF looked destined for a similar fate against the Longhorns early in doubles play. 

Ben Shelton and Sam Riffice faltered 6-2 in their second consecutive dual defeat to open the 2022 season. Duarte Vale and Abedallah Shelbayh bounced back from a lackluster performance Friday to deliver a 6-2 win, however, evening the doubles score at one. No. 51 doubles pair Mattias Siimar and Andy Andrade stayed hot and won their match 7-6, giving the Gators the doubles point and a 1-0 lead overall.

Micah Brosell drew Texas level after defeating Vale 2-6, 3-6. Florida claimed the next two points as No. 61 Mattias Siimar and No. 111 Josh Goodger both won their matches in two sets. Florida took a 3-1 lead, putting UF within a point of victory. 

Texas grabbed a second point as Richard Ciamarra defeated Andrade in three sets. All eyes turned toward the two remaining matches, as Riffice and Shelton were both going into their third and final sets. 

Shelton lost a tiebreaker to Texas’ Pierre-Yves Bailly in the first set, but dominated the second set 6-2. Riffice similarly lost the first set, facing off with Longhorn Eliot Spizzirri. The senior easily won the second, leading to a tightly contested third set that ended up going into a tiebreaker. 

Riffice struggled early in the tiebreaker, going down 5-3. Florida’s ace wasn’t going to go away quietly, rattling off three straight points to take a 6-5 lead. One point away from guaranteeing victory for the Gators, Riffice crumbled, dropping three straight points and the match to Spizzirri. Texas had successfully locked the overall match in a 3-3 tie. 

Luckily for the Gators, while Riffice’s match had just ended in a tough loss, Shelton was busy taking care of business on court three. The sophomore won his third set 6-1, defeating Bailly and delivering Florida its first win of the season.

The Gators will have a few days rest, as they travel back to Gainesville to host No. 11 Central Florida in the home opener Saturday at 12:30 p.m. UF will look to build momentum in this match, as the top-ranked teams in Florida battle it out for state supremacy.

Contact Joshua Morgan at Follow him on Twitter @JoshuaMorgan37

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