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UF Men’s Tennis: Gators Dominate Singles, Advance to NCAA Tourney Semifinals

Courtesy of University Athletic Association

BY TOMMY SCOTT

Florida rebounded from dropped doubles point to stay alive

No. 1-seeded Florida (24-2) defeated No. 8-seeded Texas A&M (19-9), 4-1, on Thursday night at the USTA National Campus to advance to the 2021 NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament semifinals.

The Gators will now play No. 4-seeded Texas (24-5) on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET on the Tennis Channel for a spot in the national championship match on Saturday night.

UF rebounded from a dropped doubles point to win singles matches on courts No. 1, No. 2, No. 4, and No. 5.

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Captains Duarte Vale and Sam Riffice were dialed in with a pair of victories over top-five opponents, while Blaise Bicknell and Ben Shelton took care of their contests in straight sets.

Quotables

Florida Head Coach Bryan Shelton
On what he told his team after dropping the doubles point…
“We said before the match, ‘This is a point they have to win, this is a point we’d like to win. Let’s go get it. Play freely and go after it.’ After getting down in one doubles, we were down a break early. I was proud of our guys for fighting back. Gave ourselves a chance to win that doubles point. Got to match point. Unfortunately it didn’t bounce our way, but we’ve been resilient all year. We’ve lost doubles points throughout the season. We lost the doubles point last time we played Texas A&M at the SEC tournament and we turned that match around and won it so back to business, business as usual.”

On the performance of team captains Duarte Vale and Sam Riffice…
Huge. We felt like these guys are at their best at one, two, and three, Texas A&M. They’re really, really tough. Three seniors that have been through all the wars, so those are three tough spots for us to try to get. For our two captains to come out the way they did tonight. They just refused to let us lose tonight. Once we lost the doubles points they put it on their shoulders, said, ‘Hey, count on me. I’m going to get it done tonight.’”

Florida Senior Duarte Vale
On clinching the victory…
“I don’t know, when you’re playing for your teammates, sometimes, for me, I can just go deeper. When I’m in holes, losing that first set which was a tough one and losing the doubles point, I look around and find inspiration in my teammates and coaches and it makes me look harder and try to keep digging and find a higher level and tonight I was able to find it.”

On his energy during the match…
“I’ve worked a lot on my fitness. At school we practice really hard so I feel like we’re all battle-tested and ready to go all day. I naturally have a lot of energy and always doing stuff so I’m usually like that on the court. Maybe not executing as well but the energy is usually there but yeah, just a great team around us, from the strength coach and nutritionist and athletic trainers that get us ready to play to be able to compete like that.”

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