Just 11 days ago, Florida’s women’s tennis team was in bad shape.
Tsveta Dimitrova clinched her fist and casually strolled toward her opponent as Taylor Grube…
"There's no way to sugarcoat it. Today was a huge set back,” coach Roland Thornqvist said on March 3 following a loss to Mississippi State. “We had very poor discipline in our play and all of a sudden found ourselves with our back against the wall. I don't know if there's any way that anyone can spin anything positive out of this."
Thornqvist must have motivated his team in some way after the 3-4 heartbreaking loss to the Bulldogs as Florida went on to win its next two matches against Top 50 opponents and established its largest win streak of the season.
No. 34 Florida (6-5) puts that streak on the line Friday afternoon when it hosts No. 2 Georgia at the Ring Tennis Complex at 5 p.m. The Bulldogs enter the contest undefeated, with notable wins over North Carolina State, who defeated Florida earlier this season, and No. 1 North Carolina en route to claiming the 2019 ITA National Team Indoor Championship.
The Gators will have to play near perfect tennis to pull off the upset over the Bulldogs, including not missing out on the crucial opening point in doubles play.
"Getting the doubles point can really give you a boost,” Thornqvist said in a release after last weekend’s win over Missouri. “It's important to get off to a strong start, it's not the end all be all, but it definitely helps. It's a different ball game, obviously, when you need victories on only three singles courts instead of four.”
Though Florida secured just one doubles point in its first six matches, it has claimed the point in five consecutive matches and have lost only one doubles match in SEC play this season. Led on Court 1 by sophomore tandem McCartney Kessler and Victoria Emma, the duo has won in doubles in four straight matches.
The Gators also enter the match with three ranked singles players in No. 12 Ida Jarlskog, No. 44 Kessler and No. 52 Emma. Jarlskog leads Florida with an 8-2 singles record and has walked away victorious in three of her first four SEC matches.
The Georgia-Tech transfer will have her hands full on Friday as she’s slated to match up against No. 1 Katarina Jokic for the Bulldogs. Only a sophomore, Jokic has already proven her skill by claiming the number one spot, per the ITA, with her 10-1 singles record. She also became the fifth women’s tennis player in history to win a singles grand slam earlier this year at the ITA National Fall Singles Championships.
Jarlskog will look to pick up her second career victory over Georgia after her former team, the Yellow Jackets, defeated the Bulldogs 4-2 last season where she served out in the final game of her doubles match to secure the opening point.
Follow Victor Prieto on Twitter @victorprieto_11 and contact him at [email protected].