The Florida Gators’ Men’s Tennis team continues their long homestand this weekend in the ITAKickoff at Alfred A. Ring Complex. The two-day tournament will run from Saturday to Sunday and will feature teams such as the USF, Temple and Fresno State.
Right Where They Left Off
After finishing the 2018-19 season with a 25-4 record and a perfect 12-0 record in SEC play, the Gators are looking to build off last year’s success and carry it into the beginning of this season.
Last spring, Florida was one match away from playing in the NCAA Championship but fell short in the semifinals to the eventual champions, the Texas Longhorns. While it wasn’t the finish the Gators were hoping for, the undefeated conference record was their best finish in SEC play since the 2015-16 season. That year, Florida finished a 10-2 SEC record and a 21-7 record overall.
Coming into this season, the Gators were ranked No. 1 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s preseason rankings and were also tabbed to finish on top in the SEC for the second consecutive year by the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. As of this week, Florida (4-1) finds itself sitting at No. 2 in the country and is aiming for its third-straight victory heading into Saturday.
The only blemish on the Gators’ schedule came on Jan. 15, when they fell 5-2 to then No. 2 Texas in a highly anticipated top-five showdown. So far, the Longhorns have been the only top-25 team Florida has faced this season.
Standing Out Among the Rest
One player on the Gators’ Men’s Tennis team separating himself from the others so far on the young season is freshman Blaise Bicknell. A five-star recruit out of Miami, Bicknell has already shown signs of being a star for the Gators.
According to the Florida Gators website, this past fall, Bicknell competed in the Seahawk Fall Invite, where he won the Flight A Doubles title with fellow teammate, Duarte Vale. Bicknell also participated in the Southern Intercollegiate Championships, where he tallied a 3-1 record in singles matches. Finally, he also took part in the Dick Vitale Intercollegiate Championships, where he put together three straight wins to advance to the singles semifinals, before ultimately falling to another teammate, Andy Andrade. In all, Bicknell finished with a 12-6 record in singles and a 5-2 final record in doubles.
Bicknell has already begun to catch the attention of Coach Bryan Shelton as well. Shelton believes he possesses the talent and skillset that others in the game simply don’t have. He also said the sky is the limit for how good a player he could become.
At the conclusion of this weekend’s tournament, the Gators will hit the road for the first time this season when they take on rival Florida State on Feb. 1 at 5 p.m. in Lake Nona, Florida.