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Sunday, May 19, 2024

No. 21 Gators stifled by No. 5 Wildcats in regular season home finale

Florida failed to bounce back from early 3-0 deficit

Florida sophomore Nate Bonetto (left) and freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn (right) compete in their doubles match during the Gators' 6-1 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks Friday, March 24, 2023.
Florida sophomore Nate Bonetto (left) and freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn (right) compete in their doubles match during the Gators' 6-1 win over the Arkansas Razorbacks Friday, March 24, 2023.

Florida’s Senior Day ended just as it should’ve — with graduate student Axel Nefve fighting for a victory in his last regular season home match.

Nefve had just won his doubles match and looked to replicate his success in the singles round. He lost the first set 6-4 but didn’t let the defeat get to his head. He bounced back with a 6-2 second-set win to stay afloat.

The back-and-forth final set ended with Nefve on top, 7-5, putting the cherry on top of his last collegiate regular season home match. His win ended his 2023 home campaign strong but was too little, too late in the Gators’ loss.

No. 21 Florida Gators men’s tennis (13-11, 5-6 SEC) lost to the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats (20-4, 8-3 SEC) 5-2 Friday at Alfred A. Ring Complex. Kentucky allowed only one singles victory in its demolition of the hosting Gators.

The Gators started the doubles round on the right foot. The No. 6-ranked duo of Florida graduate student Axel Nefve and junior Will Grant took on the No. 26-ranked Kentucky pair of fifth-year Alafia Ayeni and senior Taha Baadi.

UF’s highest-ranked doubles tandem went back and forth with the Wildcats but pulled away late and secured a 6-4 win to give UF an early advantage.

Senior Gator Lukas Greif and freshman Jonah Braswell fought early, but their opponents quickly took the momentum. Kentucky senior Liam Draxl and freshman Jaden Weekes beat the Florida pair 6-3 to even the doubles round.

UF sophomore Nate Bonetto and freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn got caught in a heated battle with the Wildcat’s No. 65-ranked duo of junior Joshua Lapadat and redshirt junior JJ Mercer to decide the winner of the doubles point.

Bonetto and Nirundorn kept close to their Kentucky opponents and forced a tiebreaker to end the match. The Gators trailed most of the final game and lost 7-6 (5). The Wildcats went into the singles round with a one-point advantage.

Bonetto then faced off against Weekes in what became the first singles match to conclude. He got overwhelmed, 6-3, in the first set. Despite a strong start to the second set, Bonetto fell 6-4 in the second set to hand Kentucky the first point of the round.

The Wildcats’ lead continued to swell as the No. 83-ranked Grant lost to No. 31 Ayeni. Like Bonetto, Grant lost 6-3 in the first set and blew a second-set advantage to seal his fate. Grant lost 6-3, 7-5 to give Kentucky a 3-0 lead.

Braswell bounced back from his doubles loss when he took the court against Lapadat, the No. 48-ranked singles player. Braswell won a close first set 6-4. He solidified his strong singles performance with a 6-0 second-set victory to give UF its first point of the match.

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Nirundorn’s 6-4 first-set win over freshman Charlelie Cosnet put the Gators in a position to make a run. However, Cosnet flipped the script in the second set with his own 6-4 victory.

Nirundorn didn’t leave much breathing room but ultimately fell to Cosnet 6-3 in the final set. Cosnet’s win secured a 4-1 lead and the victory for the Wildcats.

Greif started his match strong; he earned a swift 6-3 first-set win. His opponent, Baadi, then answered with a 6-3 victory in the second set to force a decisive third set. The players battled, but Baadi came out on top with a 7-5 match-clinching third set.

Nefve, who is ranked as the No. 41-ranked singles player, ran into the No. 20-ranked Draxl in the last regular season home match of his college career. Nefve dropped the first set 6-4 but bounced back in the second set.

He won 6-2 to force a decisive third set. Despite trailing at points, he came out on top, 7-5, to end the Gators’ last home match of the regular season. Kentucky thwarted the Gators’ Senior Day and came out on top 5-2.

Florida will turn its attention to the No. 9 South Carolina Gamecocks in its regular season finale. The match will take place at 1 p.m. Sunday at Carolina Tennis Center in Columbia, South Carolina.

Contact Kyle Bumpers at kbumpers@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @BumpersKyle.

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Kyle Bumpers

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.


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