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Monday, June 24, 2024

UCF knocks off No. 23 Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament

The Knights battled back from 2-0 down to take the match 4-3 over the Gators

Gators men's tennis pairing of junior Nate Bonetto and freshman Aidan Kim celebrate winning a point in their match against Ole Miss on Friday, March 22, 2024.
Gators men's tennis pairing of junior Nate Bonetto and freshman Aidan Kim celebrate winning a point in their match against Ole Miss on Friday, March 22, 2024.

The No. 23-ranked Florida Gators men’s tennis team (13-12, 6-6 SEC) faced off against the UCF Knights (19-5, 4-3 Big 12) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. In a dramatic finish, the Knights knocked off the Gators 4-3 to advance to the next round of the tournament.

Florida junior Nate Bonetto knotted the match at 3-3 after a three-set victory over Knights’ senior Liam Branger, and it all came down to the match on Court 5 between Gators’ sophomore Tanapatt Nirundorn and fellow sophomore Santiago Giamichelle. 

Giamichelle jumped on Nirundorn early, winning the first set 6-2. Nirundorn would fight back to even that match, winning the second set 6-3. In a back-and-forth final set where Nirundorn trailed almost the entire set, he found a way to knot the match at 5-5 in the third set. Giamichelle found one more gear in the end, closing out Nirundorn 7-3 in the third set tiebreaker. He clinched the match 4-3 for the Knights and ended the Gators season.

Earlier in the match, Florida came out firing in doubles, sweeping the point.

On Court 2, the No. 81-ranked doubles team of Nirundorn and freshman Adhithya Ganesan for the Gators took on the Knights’ sophomore duo of Francisco Llanes and Emilio Sanchez. After being knotted at 1-1 early, Nirundorn and Ganesan rattled off three straight games to help them take control of the match and eventually close out the Knights’ pairing 6-3.

On Court 1, the No. 27-ranked doubles team of Florida’s Bonetto and freshman Aidan Kim went on a three-game run of their own to put them up 5-3 over the UCF team of fifth-year Lleyton Cronje and Giamichelle. The Gators would eventually close this one out 6-4, claiming the double point.

Kim was responsible for the Gators' second point of the match with a dominant performance on Court 1, winning 6-2, 6-0 over sophomore and No. 121-ranked Yassine Dlimi of UCF.

The Knights won the next three matches on Court 4, Court 6 and Court 2, turning the tide of the match.

On Court 4, No. 117-ranked Ganesan and UCF sophomore Paul Colin found themselves tied at 4-4 in the first set. Colin then went on to win eight straight games to get the Knights on the board and begin its comeback.

Knights’ sophomore Mehdi Benchakroun tied the match at 2-2 with a 6-3, 6-1 victory over Gators’ freshman Kevin Edengren. This was Edengren’s first singles loss since late March.

Giving the Knights their first lead in the match at 3-2 was Cronje on Court 2 with a gutsy straight-set win over freshman and No. 50-ranked Jeremy Jin for the Gators. 

This loss marks the end of the 2024 Spring season for the Gators. The Knights advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where they will play the winner of No. 10-ranked Florida State and the North Florida Ospreys.

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Contact Chandler Hawkes at Follow him on Twitter @HawkesChandler.

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