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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Gators men’s tennis drops thriller to No. 19 Mississippi State

Florida fell to the Bulldogs Sunday, losing its first home match of the season

Gators men's tennis freshman Jeremy Jin goes to return the ball in the team's win over Ole Miss on Friday, March 22, 2024.
Gators men's tennis freshman Jeremy Jin goes to return the ball in the team's win over Ole Miss on Friday, March 22, 2024.

In front of a packed crowd, the Florida Gators men’s tennis team (9-9, 3-5 SEC) fell short against the No. 19 Mississippi State Bulldogs 4-3 (13-5, 5-2 SEC) on Sunday afternoon. Fans were treated to a three-hour thriller in which both teams made comebacks throughout. 

It all came down to a third-set tiebreaker.

The Gators took the doubles point in dramatic fashion. Once again, two of the doubles matches were split, and it came down to the match on Court 2 between the Florida freshmen duo of Jeremy Jin and Henry Jefferson, who took on the Mississippi State pairing of senior Carles Hernandez and junior Dusan Milanovic. 

With the match tied at 5-5, Jin and Jefferson dug deep, with some help from the crowd, to pull out the final two games and secure the doubles point for the Gators. 

Mississippi State turned around quickly in singles action, winning three matches in a row. The first Bulldogs point came on Court 5, where sophomore Benito Sanchez Martinez quickly made work of Florida’s Jefferson winning 6-3, 6-2. 

As the match on Court 5 was finishing, so was the match on Court 2. Florida freshman Aidan Kim was taking on Bulldogs sophomore and No. 39-ranked Petar Jovanovic. Jovanovic was too much for Kim, winning 6-2, 6-2 to give Mississippi State a 2-1 lead in the match. 

On Court 1, the Gators’ No. 66-ranked Jin took on Bulldogs senior and No. 118-ranked Nemanja Malesevic. Jin raced out to a 5-2 lead in the first set, but from there, it was all Malesevic. Winning five-straight games to take the first set and the momentum, Malesevic kept his foot down in the second set, pulling away to win 6-3.

Down 3-1 in the match, the Gators had their backs against the wall and fought back. Gators sophomore Tanapatt Nirundorn beat Milanovic on Court 4 7-5, 7-5 to give Florida their second point of the match. 

The attention shifted to the two remaining courts, where both matches were in tight third sets. There was a period in the match when the two final matches had the same exact game score, and players were running back and forth between the courts supporting their teammates. 

The Gators kept fighting back, tying the match at 3-3 after freshman Kevin Edengren secured a huge win on Court 6. Edengren faced off against Mississippi State freshman Roberto Ferrer Guimaraes and got the best of him in the final set, winning 6-3, 3-6, 6-4.

With the match tied at 3-3, players, coaches and fans surrounded Court 3. UF junior Nate Bonetto was headed to a third-set tiebreaker against the Bulldogs’ Hernandez. The first two sets of the match were fairly lopsided, and it wasn’t until the final set that the two were trading blows. 

Long rally after rally, the two were neck and neck, neither dropping their serve the entire final set. Hernandez proved to be too much in the end for Bonetto in the tiebreaker, closing him out 7-2 and clinching the match 4-3 for the Bulldogs. 

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Florida head coach Adam Steinberg said following the match that losing like this is tough but can strengthen a team. 

“It was our first time in that situation, and I told the guys we’re gonna grow a lot from those moments,” he said “It’s important that we play those types of matches, and as we go along, we get better and better.”

The Gators will be back on the road on March 31 to take on the Georgia Bulldogs at 1 p.m. in Athens, Georgia.

Contact Chandler Hawkes at Follow him on Twitter @HawkesChandler.

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