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Saturday, June 15, 2024

Gators fall short in NCAA individual championships

Axel Nefve made it to the Round of 16 singles for the first time in his career

Florida junior Will Grant and graduate student Axel Nefve compete in their doubles match during the Gators' 6-1 win against the Arkansas Razorbacks Friday, March 24, 2023.
Florida junior Will Grant and graduate student Axel Nefve compete in their doubles match during the Gators' 6-1 win against the Arkansas Razorbacks Friday, March 24, 2023.

Axel Nefve stood ready to serve out the match with his lead 5-3.

The No. 32 ranked graduate student’s next hit would determine the winner of the age-old Gators-Seminoles rivalry and secure his spot in the round of 32. 

He tossed the ball and served it out wide. The ball landed up the court far from the baseline. 

His opponent, No. 7 seed and Florida State University junior Antoine Cornut-Chauvinc, watched the ball as he attempted a backhand. The Seminole fell short to finalize the Gators’ 6-3 victory in third set and match win. 

Nefve walked off the court with his round of 32 ticket and eighth ranked victory of the season. 

As their Florida tennis careers came to an end, Nefve and junior Will Grant competed in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Individual Championships at the United States Tennis Association’s national campus in Orlando, Florida, May 22-May 27.

On May 22, Nefve began his journey in the singles tournament against Cornut-Chauvinc. 

Despite a five and a half hour weather delay, Nefve brought home the singles win. 

The first set, near midnight, started weak. Nefve was down 3-0 reeling from a double break. Nefve didn’t let it get to his head. He rallied back to win the next six games and win the first set 6-3.

In the second set, Nefve failed to take home the win after Cornut-Chauvinc’s double break lead. His 6-1 loss forced a third set to decide the winner.

The third set was leveled at 2-2 in the first four games.

Nefve started strong with a 3-2 lead. He held the serve and dropped the second break of the set to extend the lead to 5-3. At game point, Nefve served strong and brought home the match win.

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Nefve’s record improved to 22-15 in overall singles, and he advanced to the round of 32. 

In the singles round of 32, Nefve faced Arizona fifth year Jonas Ziverts. With the continued weather struggle, Nefve’s match faced a two-hour delay and a relocation indoors.

The opening set started strong with a 3-0 lead for Nefve. Ranked No. 40, Ziverts served a mini-break to tie up the score 5-5. In the final point, Nefve took home the win with an unanswered serve for a 7-6 final. 

Ziverts opened the second set with a 4-0 lead. Nefve struggled to hold on after two breaks and ended the set with a 6-2 loss, failing to come back from the Arizona advantage. 

Nefve won five-straight games to earn a 5-3 lead in the third set and the final serve out of the match. Ready to bring home the win, Nefve attempted to serve out wide but hit the net to give Ziverts the point and force a deuce. 

The graduate student held strong. He was determined to advance to the Round of 16 and watched as Ziverts’ backhand sailed too long to take the victory. 

His 6-3 win took him to the round of 16 for the first in his NCAA Singles Championship career. Nefve’s advance earned him Intercollegiate Tennis Association All-American status as he brought home nine-ranked victories and a 23-15 singles season record. 

Nefve next took on Virginia’s No. 9 seed Chris Rodesch for a spot in the quarterfinals. 

He picked up a break in the opening set and brought a 2-0 lead. He never trailed in the opening set and held his advantage with two breaks for a 6-4 win. 

The Virginia junior pushed a break in the second set as Nefve fell behind 3-2. Nefve failed to recover and lost the second set for a 6-4 final score. 

Nefve dominated in the start of the third set. He won four of the five opening games to take the lead 4-1. 

Rodesch proved tough. He served two breaks to win the final set 6-4. 

Nefve’s singles run ended after the final loss. He wraps up with a 23-16 season record and a 95-53 career record in singles. 

Nefve’s singled end didn’t influence his doubles match later that day. Grant and Nefve took on the Southern California No.13-ranked duo of senior Stefan Dostanic and graduate student Bradley Frye. 

The first seven games went back-and-forth as both sides held serves, but the UF pair found themselves down 4-3. Dostanic and Frye ended the game with one break on two opportunities to wrap up the match 6-3. 

The second set was another contested matchup, but Grant and Nefve led 6-5. In set point, Nerve hit Frye second serve to get the ball around for a forehand and ripped past Dostanic for the Gator set win. 

Grant and Nefve led the deciding third set 5-4. Grant and Nefve earned their first mini-break to extend their lead 6-4. The duo held on and sealed the final three points for a 10-4 victory and a spot in the Round of 16.

The Gators ended their three-match losing streak with a 16-11 overall double record and 11-6 record against ranked-opponents. 

In the Round of 16, Grant and Nefve trailed in the first set against Ohio State No. 16 ranked senior duo James Trotter and Andrew Lutschauni. The Gators were down a break 4-2, but failed to recover to give the Buckeyes the opener win 6-2.

The Gators held their lead in the second set with a deuce point for a 2-1 score. After a double Buckeyes break, Grant and Nefve trailed 4-3. The Florida No. 5 ranked duo fell to the Ohio State pair 6-3 to round out the season. 

Grant and Nefve ended with a 16-12 overall record and 11 ranked victories. Their top eight seed ranking in the NCAA Doubles Championship gained them ITA All-American recognition.

In Nefve’s final collegiate season and only year with Florida, he collected 43 overall wins and a spot on the All-SEC first team. 

Grant’s Florida tennis career finished with 88 overall victories and a 49-36 doubles record. He held a spot on the 2023 All-Southeastern Conference Second team and was a three-time ITA Scholar-Athlete from 2020 to 2022. 

Contact Krisha Sanghavi at ksanghavi@alligator.org. Follow her on Twitter @krishasang.

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Krisha Sanghavi

Krisha Sanghavi is a third-year public relations and economics major. In her free time, she loves cheering on Miami sports teams and spending time with her friends.


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