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Wednesday, April 17, 2024

No. 20 Gators battle to the end but fall short against No. 9 Volunteers

Florida falls to 1-4 against teams ranked in top 10

Florida junior Will Grant returns the ball in the Gators' 6-1 victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks Friday, March 24, 2023.
Florida junior Will Grant returns the ball in the Gators' 6-1 victory against the Arkansas Razorbacks Friday, March 24, 2023.

As Gators junior Will Grant and Volunteers graduate student Emile Hudd were in the heat of a third set to determine the winner, there were two outcomes. Either Tennessee gets the win over a lower-ranked opponent, or Florida pulls off the come-from-behind upset at home.

Hudd faced pressure early as he dropped the first set, but he overcame the loss. He took the last two sets and ended the match for the Volunteers.

The No. 20 Florida Gators (12-9, 5-4 SEC) fell to the No. 9 Tennessee Volunteers (16-6, 6-2 SEC) 4-3 Friday evening in Gainesville.

After being forced to retire early in previous matches due to their teammates' success, Florida freshman Jonah Braswell and senior Lukas Greif were the first to win a doubles match. The pair defeated Tennessee senior Angel Diaz and graduate student Martim Prata 6-1.

Sophomore Nate Bonetto and freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn wrapped up the doubles point for the Gators with a 6-4 win over Hudd and Volunteers sophomore Shunsuke Mitsui, the No. 44-ranked doubles pair. 

Grant and UF graduate student Axel Nefve, the No. 10-ranked doubles duo, played against Tennessee graduate student Pat Harper and junior Johannus Monday, the No. 2-ranked doubles pair. The match was retired after Florida secured the doubles point.

The doubles win gave the team an early advantage going into singles play against the higher-ranked Tennessee. The Volunteers overcame the deficit immediately.

Diaz started singles play with a straight-sets win over Bonetto, 6-2, 6-4. 

Volunteers senior Blaise Bicknell followed his teammate’s win with a straight-sets victory of his own over the No. 102-ranked Braswell, 6-3, 6-3, to put Tennessee up 2-1.

Florida got back on track with a needed win from Nirundorn. He scored a two-set victory over Prata, 6-4, 6-2, to tie the match at two apiece.

The lead swung back and forth in the next two singles matches. Mitsui, the No. 124-ranked singles player, put the Volunteers up 3-2 with a win over Greif in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2. The win put Tennessee in a match-clinching situation with one more victory.

The No. 81-ranked Nefve denied the Volunteers the win for a moment as he took down the No. 2-ranked singles player, Monday, in straight sets, 7-5, 6-3.

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No. 92-ranked Grant and No. 44-ranked Hudd faced off in the final match to determine who would take the match.

Grant gave Florida fans hope as he came out strong in the first set with a 6-2 win. Hudd didn’t go out quietly, though; he showed his mettle with a 6-3 win in the second set. 

The match came down to the final third set. The two players gave it all they had as they exchanged blows back and forth. However, Hudd pulled away at the end to win it 6-3 and send the Volunteers into celebration.

The Gators will return to Alfred A. Ring Complex at noon Sunday as they host the No. 7-ranked Georgia Bulldogs.

Contact Eitan Ohana at Follow him on Twitter @eitan_ohana.

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