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Saturday, March 02, 2024

No. 24 Gators cruise to win over No. 22 Tigers in opening round of SEC Championship

Florida eliminated tournament’s home team

Florida freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn celebrates during the Gators' 4-3 loss to the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs Sunday, April 9, 2023.
Florida freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn celebrates during the Gators' 4-3 loss to the No. 7 Georgia Bulldogs Sunday, April 9, 2023.

The No. 8-seed Florida men’s tennis team kicked off its 2023 SEC Championship with a strong performance in singles play against the No. 9-seed host team, Auburn. 

The No. 24 Florida Gators (14-12, 5-7 SEC) defeated the No. 22 Auburn Tigers (17-11, 5-7 SEC) 4-1 Thursday evening in Auburn.

The Tigers’ No. 31-ranked doubles pair of seniors Raul Dobai and Finn Murgett got off to a quick start with a 6-2 win over the No. 4-ranked doubles pair of Florida junior Will Grant and graduate student Axel Nefve.

Sophomore Nate Bonetto and freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn kept the door open for the Gators as they fought back from a 4-2 deficit against Tigers senior Jan Galka and freshman Billy Blaydes to win 7-5.

On court three, Auburn senior Tyler Stice and freshman Alejandro Moreno pulled off the previous match’s outcome in reverse. The pair came back from down 4-2 against Florida senior Lukas Greif and freshman Jonah Braswell to win 7-6 (4) and secure the doubles point for the Tigers.

Florida flipped the script in singles play.

Nefve — the No. 37-ranked singles player — earned UF’s first victory in straight sets; he defeated No. 57-ranked Stice, 6-1, 6-3. 

Greif won his singles match almost immediately after, as he beat Galka in straight sets, 6-0, 6-1. Nirundorn, like his teammates before him, won in two sets against Blaydes, 6-4, 6-4, to earn Florida’s third-straight victory.

No. 95-ranked Grant scored the finisher for Florida. He beat No. 115-ranked Moreno in straight sets, 6-2, 6-4, to make it four straight singles wins and a 4-1 victory for the Gators.

The remaining matches were retired since Florida secured the win. No. 86-ranked Braswell was up against Murgett. Gators freshman Olek Orlikowski faced Dobai.

Florida’s win sets the stage for a matchup against No. 1-seeded Georgia at 3 p.m. Friday.

Contact Eitan Ohana at eohana@alligator.org. Follow him on Twitter @eitan_ohana.

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