UF Men’s Tennis: Gators Roll No. 27 Crimson Tide in SEC Opener

No. 84-ranked Andy Andrade (above) has clinched wins for the Gators in four matches this season.
Photo by Courtney Culbreath

Courtesy of UF Athletic Association

No. 6 Florida opened the conference slate with a convincing 7-0 sweep over Alabama on Friday night.

The No. 6 Florida men’s tennis team opened SEC play on a strong note, handing the No. 27-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide a 7-0 sweep in its conference opener at the Alfred A. Ring Complex on Friday night. The Gators got back on track in doubles, taking the doubles point, as juniors Oliver Crawford, Duarte Vale, and Andy Andrade would seal the deal in singles despite playing out the rest of the match. Florida moves to 12-2 overall after picking up its first conference win of the season, while Alabama drops to 9-4 and 0-1 in the conference.

The Crimson Tide struck first in doubles, though UF would stay the course to come away with wins on courts one and three to claim its first doubles point over the past three matches.

Alabama’s Edson Ortiz and Marcel Garza opened with a 6-2 decision in No. 2 doubles over No. 33-ranked Johannes Ingildsen and Will Grant, cutting their five-match win streak to suffer just their second loss of the year at 7-2 overall.

No. 14-ranked Oliver Crawford and Sam Riffice saw a competitive match in the Tide’s Patrick Kaukovalta and Alexey Nesterov, as the Gators would find the equalizer with a 6-3 win to shift focus to the No. 3 court. Duarte Vale and Josh Goodger were up 3-2 against Alabama’s Ricardo Roberto and Zhe Zhou before blitzing the tide over the next three games to secure the doubles point with a 6-2 decision.

The wins put the two tandems back in the win column, as Crawford/Riffice move to 7-2 and Vale/Goodger move to a team-leading 8-2 record.

UF jumped out to early leads in singles with five first-set victories. The Gators would claim a pair of wins from the top of the lineup before Andrade sealed the deal for the fourth match this season, though the Tide managed to force three sets on three courts prior to the clinch.

Nonetheless, UF would manage to pull away in the remaining matches to conclude the sweep down the stretch.

No. 23 Crawford dismantled Alabama’s No. 80 Edson Ortiz in No.1 singles, 6-0, 6-1, as No. 11 Vale managed to hold off #125 Roberto on court three, 6-4, 6-4, to extend the lead to 3-0 through the first half of singles. The victory serves as Crawford’s fifth-straight over a top-80 ranked opponent, while Vale adds his second ranked win of the season for his 11th overall on the year.

In the midst of the first two singles victories, Josh Goodger (No. 5) and freshman No. 90 Blaise Bicknell (No. 6) opened with first-set wins prior to splitting on their respective courts, while No. 4 Sam Riffice fell in his first set on court two, prior to rallying back in the second.

No. 84 Andrade grinded out a close 7-5 decision in the first set over Kaukovalta in No. 4 singles, as the junior would leave it all on the court to secure the W, downing him in straight sets, 7-5, 6-2, to clinch the Gators’ 12th victory at 4-0.

With the match clinched, Goodger responded with a valiant effort in the third set of his match against Nesterov, 6-1, 2-6, 6-3, to push the advantage to 5-0 while adding his second consecutive win from the No. 5 position. Bicknell then managed to rebound from his second set loss in a super tiebreaker, as the rookie held a 6-5 lead over the Tide’s Jeremy Gschwendtner prior to rattling off four straight points, 6-4, 2-6, 10-5, to remain undefeated on the season (6-0).

As Bicknell’s match finished over on court six, sophomore Sam Riffice fought hard to close out his battle with Zhou in No. 2 singles, leading 5-2 in the third. Zhou wouldn’t give up easily, managing to steal a game with the match on the line, though Riffice would go on to close him out, 4-6, 6-1, 6-3, to end the match at 7-0, while adding his eighth overall and third straight win this season.


Head Coach Bryan Shelton

On adjusting from playing indoors to outdoors…
“You can feel it. All of a sudden, you’re dealing with a cooler temperature … the ball doesn’t go as fast through the air and it certainly doesn’t respond to the court as it does when you’re inside or when it’s warmer. Then, you couple that with the wind … it moves the ball a little bit and makes it a little bit tricky outside. So, getting back outside again, it’s kind of getting used to those elements again.”

“Tonight was a tough night. Alabama played really well. The conditions were a little bit tougher. We’re not used to playing in cold weather. But I was still proud of the guys and how well they competed and how hard they fought.”

On improvement on serves and returns tonight…
“In the big points, I felt like we hit our serves really well. Sam [Riffice], as the match went along, served better and better as he went up and out. I thought he did that really well in doubles, as well as singles. I thought that we returned well. We’ve been focusing on taking the returns deep through the middle and getting ourselves a specific target to go after, and I thought that, overall, we did a good job of that tonight.”

On getting back on track in doubles…
“We’re just trying to emphasize our positioning and making sure that we’re closing and not leaving too much room near the front part of the court. We’re still not there. We still made some mistakes with that tonight that we still have to clean up. So, we’ve got to make sure that we hold them accountable … make sure they look at the video as well when we go over those to make sure we make some corrections.”


  *   The Gators return to the Alfred A. Ring Complex on Sunday, March 1, as UF will host Auburn first at noon, followed by a 3:30 p.m. matchup with Mercer.

#6 University of Florida 7, #27 Alabama 0

Singles competition – 1, 3, 4, 5, 6, 2 (Order of finish)
1. #18 Oliver Crawford (UF) def. #80 Edson Ortiz (UA) 6-0, 6-1
2. #4 Sam Riffice (UF) def. Zhe Zhou (UA) 4-6, 6-1, 6-3
3. #21 Duarte Vale (UF) def. #125 Riccardo Roberto (UA) 6-4, 6-3
4. #84 Andy Andrade (UF) def. Patrick Kaukovalta (UA) 7-5, 6-2
5. Josh Goodger (UF) def. Alexey Nesterov (UA) 6-1, 3-6, 6-3
6. #90 Blaise Bicknell (UF) def. Jeremy Gschwendtner (UA) 6-4, 2-6, 10-5

Doubles competition – 2, 1, 3 (Order of finish)
1. #14 Oliver Crawford/Sam Riffice (UF) def. Patrick Kaukovalta/Alexey Nesterov (UA) 6-3
2. Edson Ortiz/Marcelo Garza (UA) def. #33 Johannes Ingildsen/Will Grant (UF) 6-2
3. Duarte Vale/Josh Goodger (UF) def. Riccardo Roberto/Zhe Zhou (UA) 6-2