The No. 12 Florida men’s tennis team won both matches during the ITA’s Men’s Kick-Off Weekend, which qualified them for the ITA National Indoors on Feb. 15.
On Saturday, Florida had little trouble getting past an 0-3 St. John’s team that had lost matches to South Florida and Stetson during the past week, defeating the Red Storm 7-0.
However, Sunday was a different story for the Gators as they beat UNC-Wilmington 4-2.
For the first time all season, Florida lost the doubles point, forcing the Gators to win four out of the singles matches.
The first tandem to suffer the wrath of the Seahawks was the number three doubles tandem of senior Bob van Overbeek and junior Stephane Piro, who were taken out by the sophomore duo of Michael Reilly and Kaue Pereira.
UF’s No. 1 ranked doubles team and No. 45 ranked tandem in the country, featuring juniors Mike Alford and Florent Diep, weren’t far behind losing 8-5 to the team consisting of seniors Costa Blank and Chris Cooprider. Gator men’s tennis coach Bryan Shelton believes the Seahawks came out ready to compete.
The Gators responded in singles play beginning at number six singles. Senior Billy Federhofer defeated junior Pedro Mol 6-1, 6-2 and was the first player off the court.
Next off the court for the Gators was freshman Gordon Watson at number five singles who took out senior Kosta Blank 6-2, 6-4. However, Watson says there are still aspects of his game that he would like to improve.
Watson’s win would be the last easy win for the Gators. The bulk of the drama came at number two singles, featuring senior Bob van Overbeek and senior Chris Cooprider. Overbeek took the first set breezing through 6-1. However, Cooprider changed his game and came roaring back winning the second set 6-2. In the third and deciding set, Overbeek dropped the first three games before making a comeback of his own. He ultimately won the match 6-1, 2-6, 6-4. Overbeek said that he just had to take the opportunities his opponent was giving him.
Despite getting pushed to the limit, junior Mike Alford was able to secure the win for the Gators at No. 4 singles, defeating Kaue Pereira 4-6, 6-2, 6-4. Alford did not play in Saturday’s match against against St. John’s.
At No. 1 singles, UF’s Florent Diep lost to junior Rafael Aita 6-4, 6-3. Diep was not able to finish the point quickly due to the excellent defense of Aita.
The match at No. 3 singles was stopped in progress after Alford had the secured the win for the Gators. Junior Stephane Piro and sophomore Sam Williams’ match was stopped at 1-1 in the third set. Williams took the 1st set 3-6, while Piro won the 2nd set 7-6 (5).
The Gators will have a full week’s worth of practice before its next match, and Shelton believes the key is improving every day.
The next match for Florida is on Super Bowl Sunday at noon against Furman.