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Friday, April 12, 2024

Gators men’s tennis dominates UCF to get back in win column

The Gators beat the Knights 6-1 to end their four-match skid

Freshman Jeremy Jin celebrates after winning a point in a doubles match against UCF, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024.
Freshman Jeremy Jin celebrates after winning a point in a doubles match against UCF, Monday, Feb. 19, 2024.

The Florida Gators men's tennis team (4-4) handed the UCF Knights (7-1) their first loss of the season with a 6-1 victory in an emotional in-state rivalry match, Monday afternoon. After taking the doubles point, the Gators fed off the momentum and energy from the crowd to defeat the Knights for the 19th straight time since January 2001.

The key match for the Gators came on Court 2 in doubles action. UF won on Court 1, and UCF won on Court 3 to shift all the attention to Court 2. 

Tied 5-5, the Gator duo of freshman Adhithya Ganesan and sophomore Tanapatt Nirundorn got a huge hold of serve to put all of the pressure on the Knights pairing of fifth-year Lleyton Cronje and senior Liam Branger. Ganesan and Nirundorn buckled down and got the break of serve to win the match 7-5 to give the Gators momentum into singles and the lead in the match. 

Every singles match across the board was physical and tight, regardless of the final scores. After losing the doubles point, UCF’s players, fans and coaches made it a point to try and turn the tide of the match with their energy, and the Gators matched them on all fronts. 

“We had a better start for sure,” head coach Adam Steinberg said. “I see them every day, and I know the passion and enthusiasm that they have, and we need that from everybody. But it was definitely a step in the right direction for sure.”

The Gators came out strong in the singles session, winning five of six first sets. On Court 4, Gators junior Nate Bonetto got UF on the board first with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Knights sophomore Santiago Giamichelle to give the Gators a 2-0 lead in the match.

Just a few minutes later, No. 82-ranked Nirundorn took down UCF sophomore and No. 120-ranked Mehdi Benchakroun, 6-3, 6-3, to put the Gators within one match of victory. The clincher came from Court 3, where Gators freshman Aidan Kim beat Knights sophomore Francisco Llanes 7-5, 6-2.

“It was a really important match for us before we go into SEC season to get back to .500 and give them a taste of what winning is like again,” Steinberg said. 

The Gators enter a break stretch on their schedule play until March 1. Steinberg said the team will use this time to work on their games, and more importantly, get the team healthy. 

“We have a couple of guys that are going through some things like most teams,” Steinberg said. “It’s a perfect time for us to have a bit of a break here and get healthy and work on some things and get our mind right to go into a lot of these guys’ first SEC season.”

Following their break, the Gators will be back in action on March 1 for SEC play against the No. 12 Texas A&M Aggies (7-2) at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.

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

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