Men’s Tennis Preview (Click for audio)
The 2012-2013 Florida men’s tennis season ended on a bitter note. That disappointment has stuck with head coach Bryan Shelton as he and the Gators look to bounce back this year.
“We lost to Denver is the very first round [of the NCAA Tournament] here at home,” said Shelton. “That feeling that I had that day, it’s still with me today, and it motivates me every single time we go practice, every single time we do a conditioning drill.”
The Gators played with a reinvigorated spirit during the fall tournament season. According to Shelton, the team has learned a lot during the fall tournament season and seen the most improvement from the players’ ability to return serves. Because of the team’s development to return serves, they will have a better chance to match up against players with good serves while also being able to pressure players with weaker serves.
The team split the final tournaments of 2013. At the Dick Vitale Clay Court Classic in Lakewood Ranch, FL, Stephane Piro and Florent Diep, both from France, played their first doubles matches together. “The French Connection,” as Shelton called them, came back to Gainesville with the title.
Elliott Orkin and Gordon Watson traveled to Flushing, New York, to play doubles in the USTA/ITA National Indoor Championships in the same complex where the U.S. Open is played: the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center. The team would lose in the first round.
As the team gets ready for the spring portion of the schedule, Shelton is excited for the Gators’ upcoming match ups including twith conference rival Georgia Bulldogs as well as some highly talented west coast schools.
“This year we’re excited to be able to go out to California and face USC, which were four-time national champions,” said Shelton. “To be able to play them and also play UCLA as well, who was in the finals last year – to add those two to our schedule is pretty special.”
While excited for the regular season matches, Shelton didn’t make any predictions for the postseason, not after last year’s exit.
“For us, we’ve just got to take it one day at a time,” said Shelton. “We found out last year we can’t overlook anybody.”
The team returns to the court for the USTA Futures Tournament on January 10. The Gators first appearance at home in 2014 will be on January 22 against the University of North Florida.