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Tuesday, April 16, 2024
Florida freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn celebrates after winning a point in his match against the Texas Longhorns Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.
Florida freshman Tanapatt Nirundorn celebrates after winning a point in his match against the Texas Longhorns Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.

The Florida Gators men’s tennis team is set to begin their season Friday, and the team comes into the spring season with a pre-season ranking of No. 23 in the country. Their 2023 campaign ended with a first-round exit in the 2023 NCAA Tournament to Oklahoma State, and the team finished with a 14-14 record. This marked the first time since 2001 the Gators failed to have a winning record.

 After the departure of Florida head coach Bryan Shelton following last year's spring season, the pressure was on athletic director Scott Stricklin to hire someone who could maintain the high standards set by Shelton for the program. Stricklin chose to hire head coach Adam Steinberg. 

Steinberg had spent his last nine seasons as the head coach of the Michigan Wolverines. During his time there, Michigan went through the best stretch of tennis in school history.

In his time running the Michigan program, he held a career record of 172-64. Steinberg won a Big Ten championship along the way and a regular season conference title. His last two seasons as the Michigan head coach were his best, totaling a record of 52-9 over two years. In the nine years Steinberg was head coach, the Wolverines appeared in the NCAA Tournament seven times.  

UF ranks at No. 23 in the preseason rankings from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. The Southeastern Conference has seven teams ranked in the top 25.

Four Gators have cracked the top 100 in the ITA singles player rankings, along with two doubles teams. The top-ranked player on the team is freshman Aidan Kim. Kim is ranked as the No. 57 singles player in the country and sophomore Tanapatt Nirundorn comes in at No. 69. Freshman Jeremy Jin is ranked No. 75, and graduate transfer JanMagnus Johnson is ranked 86th.

Junior Nate Bonetto and Kim come in as the No. 38-ranked doubles team in the country, while Jin and Bonetto are ranked as the No. 48 doubles team.

The Gators have a well-balanced team in terms of youth and experience. Johnson played four years at Florida Gulf Coast University before arriving in Gainesville, and Bonetto has been with the program for three years. 

What the youth on the team might lack in college tennis experience, however, they make up for with talent. Kim and Jin both have accomplished junior tennis careers under their belt. Jin was one of Australia's top players before signing with the Gators, and Kim was ranked as the No. 2 recruit in the class of 2023.

As it stands right now, Florida has nine top 25 matchups on its schedule. Three of those are out-of-conference matches against No.15 Wake Forest, No. 3 Texas and No. 20 Florida State.

The team's first spring action will be Friday in the Fighting Illini Invite in Delray Beach, Florida. 

The Gators will compete in their home opener Jan. 19 against the Citadel and then face No. 20 Florida State Feb. 3. The team's SEC opener will come against No. 19 Texas A&M March 1, and Florida's final home match will be April 14 against No. 5 South Carolina bwfore the SEC Tournament begins April 17.

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Contact Chandler Hawkes at chawkes@alligator.com. Follow him on Twitter @HawkesChandler.

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