While adjusting to life at UF, two Florida freshman tennis players have strengthened their relationship as teammates on the court and roommates off the court.
Tanapatt Nirundorn and Togan Tokac, known as T&T to Gators fans, both come from international backgrounds. The duo were the only two Gators to play every Fall doubles match with each other, and they were the only freshman pair to make the Intercollegiate Tennis Association top 10 by the end of the semester.
The pair met in January 2021 when they started playing in the same tournaments on tour, Nirnundorn said.
“We were just two guys at a tournament, just trying to get to know more people,” Nirundorn said.
Nirundorn was the first to commit to UF. Tokac knew Nirundorn had committed, which was one of the reasons Tokac decided to become a Gator.
Now, the two live together, and despite the occasional mess, they enjoy their time together as Gators.
In their first tournament together, the ITA All-American Championships, T&T finished with six doubles wins. Their eight wins in the Fall season were the most of any Florida pair.
The pair found comfort in their shared international backgrounds. Nirundorn spent time living in Thailand, and Tokac lived in Turkey for most of his life.
Nirundorn was originally born in Thailand, but after living there for a couple of years, he moved to Kentucky. He stayed in Kentucky until 2016, when he moved back to Thailand.
Six months before he started UF, Nirundorn lived in South Carolina as Thailand struggled with COVID-19, he said.
The time back in the United States after living in Thailand for around six years took some adjustment. However, he acclimated quickly because of his previous time living in Kentucky.
“It's a different world over in Thailand,” Nirundorn said. “It's been a little tough.”
Tokac, on the other hand, only visited the U.S. a few times — typically to compete in tournaments — before he started schooling in Gainesville.
His family, Turkish cuisine and everything in between are in Turkey. But he’s started anew as he adjusts to life in Gainesville and the U.S.
“Now here, I'm just by myself,” Tokac said. “But now I'm with the team, so they are like my new family.”
Nirundorn and Tokac pointed to their teammates as sources of advice and support. Players like Lukas Greif and Will Grant have become experienced Gators. Nirundorn said they know what they should and shouldn’t do, how to act and where to find everything.
“We're learning something almost every day,” Nirundorn said.
Living on UF’s campus has given them the opportunity to meet more athletes from international backgrounds. They’re close with the women’s tennis team, which has three international players. The men’s team recently saw two more players come from overseas to join Florida.
Two Polish freshmen — Olek Orlikowski and Borys Zgola — are joining and will compete in the Spring season. Nirundorn and Tokac have already met the two new Gators and look forward to playing alongside them.
Nirundorn played with Zgola in Egypt for four weeks and even teamed up with him on the same doubles team in the Roland Garros Juniors. While they didn’t know Orlikowski as well before his arrival, they anticipate both players’ roles on Florida’s team.
“It's really exciting to get some new faces on the team,” Nirundorn said.
The team is readying for the beginning of its Spring season when it plays Texas at noon Jan. 15. The Gators’ first match of the season against the Longhorns will kick off in Gainesville in the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.
Contact Kyle Bumpers at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @BumpersKyle.
Kyle Bumpers is a fourth-year journalism major and the sports editor of The Alligator. In his free time, he cries about Russell Wilson and writes an outrageous amount of movie reviews on Letterboxd.