UF Women’s Tennis: Gators Rally Back to Take Down Tide in Tuscaloosa

Doubles partners: Sydney Berlin (left) and Victoria Emma.
Photo by Piper Hansen

Courtesy of UF Athletic Association

The University of Florida women’s tennis team rallied back from an early deficit to notch a 4-2 win at No. 47 Alabama Friday night in its 2020 SEC opener, as sophomore Sydney Berlin clinched the match with a hard-fought victory on court five.

The Gators, improving to 4-2 on the young year, dropped the doubles point, and the Crimson Tide jumped ahead in singles 2-1, but they rattled off three straight singles victories to start their conference season in the win column. Berlin, who saw an early first-set lead disappear, showed great resolve to hold on in a gritty three-set triumph over Luca Fabian.

After falling 6-4 in the opening stanza, Berlin cruised to a 6-0 win in set two and recorded a 6-4 advantage in the final frame to push the Gators to their third straight victory.

Improving to 4-0, sophomore Marlee Zein posted Florida’s first score of the day with a win on court four. Winning for the third straight match, Ida Jarlskog also added a victory, while No. 49 McCartney Kessler broke through for a win on UF’s top court.

The match began with a highly-contested doubles point going in favor of the host Crimson Tide. All three courts featured a 5-4 score at a juncture, but Alabama made the plays in crunch time to post victories on courts two and three. Florida’s top spot, Kessler and Zein, saw their match go unfinished at 5-5 against Alabama’s Moka Ito and Isabella Harvison after they built a 5-2 lead. For Berlin and Victoria Emma, it was their first loss of the dual match season (2-1) after they fell to Selim and Fabian, 6-4. Tsveta Dimitrova and Jarlskog came up short by the same tally on court two despite knotting the score at 4-4.

In singles, Florida evened the score quickly as Zein raced out to an early lead in her match and ultimately dispatched Ares Teixido, 6-2, 6-1.

Soon after, though, the Tide would reclaim the lead when No. 113 Emma saw her two-match winning streak come to an end with a 6-2, 6-2 setback to Harvison. Harvison improved to 11-2 with the win, which was her third straight.

Jarlskog knotted the overall tally at 2-2 from court three when she posted a 6-3, 6-0 win over Alba Cortina Pou, handing the senior her first loss. Nationally-ranked Kessler came through with a momentous 6-3, 6-3 win over Ito to put the Gators in the lead 3-2 with two courts still in the balance.

With Dimitrova on court six and Berlin on five, the Gators needed just one more win to clinch it. Berlin delivered, as Florida earned its first win over a ranked foe this season.

Dimitrova’s bout went unfinished at 6-7, 6-2, 0-1.

Florida improved to 43-2 all time against the Crimson Tide. Featuring the same doubles pairings for the third straight match, Florida dropped the doubles point for the first time in three contests.

Up Next
Sunday, March 1 | 1 p.m. ET
Florida at No. 48 Auburn
Yarbrough Tennis Center | Auburn, Ala.

Quotes from the Court

Head Coach Roland Thornqvist

Overall thoughts on the match… 
“We played really well at the end. I especially have to single out Sydney (Berlin). She was both super tough in handling the ups and downs of the match. She also played at a really high level at the end. We always have great matches with Alabama. Jenny’s teams fight hard and with class. I’m very happy coming out of here 1-0.”