ITA Kick-Off Weekend was a resounding success for Florida tennis. With wins against USF on Friday and Mississippi State on Saturday, the UF men’s tennis team punched its ticket to indoor nationals. Head coach Bryan Shelton posted his 200th win with the program — he is the fastest to this mark of any UF men’s tennis coach.
Down Goes MSU
After a relatively straightforward win over USF on Friday, the Gators were tasked with overcoming a red-hot Mississippi State team. The Bulldogs started the season 5-0 and were coming off a 4-3 Friday victory over SMU. There were significant stakes; the winner of the battle qualified for the ITA indoor national championships in February.
The Gators started strong, as they often do, snatching the doubles point to gain a 1-0 advantage. The freshman team Togan Tokac/Tanapatt Nirundorn fought off an early break and ended with a 6-3 win. Veteran Lukas Greif was playing alongside Jonah Braswell, and Greif secured the point by holding serve in the final game.
Graduate student Axel Nefve fanned the flame early in singles, winning in straight sets over MSU’s Nemanja Malesevic.
After the 2-0 start, UF’s Will Grant and Nate Bonetto both fell in straight sets to even the score. It was down to Togan Tokac, Jonah Braswell and Lukas Greif. The Gators needed two wins to punch their ticket to the championships in Chicago.
Tokac had won the first set in his duel with MSU’s Gregor Ramskogler, but he dropped the second set 0-6. It looked like all momentum was on the side of the Bulldog, but Tokac managed to rally and polish off the third set 6-2.
Lukas Greif had already served out his doubles match to secure the point, but that wasn’t enough for the senior. After Tokac’s victory to put the Gators on top 3-2, Greif entered a second-set tiebreak with his opponent, MSU’s Benito Sanchez Martinez. With a win, the Gators could book their flights to Chicago. With a loss, the match’s momentum would shift leading into the third set.
Greif left no question. He dominated the tiebreak 7-1 to win the ITA Kick-Off and send the Gators to nationals.
Associate head coach Mat Cloer was very impressed with Greif’s performance in particular.
“I think Lukas is showing his poise and veteran leadership down there at five. Really just building his confidence during the last two wins and he has worked so hard.”
What’s to Come
The Gators are headed to Chicago for nationals on February 17-20, but they have a full schedule until then. In this upcoming week, they will be squaring off against FSU, USC and Stanford on Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, respectively.