UF men's tennis hope playing at home fuels deep run

By Jim Harvin Correspondent
Friday, May 12, 2017 11:18 PM

The Florida men's tennis team did its share of sweating this year, but it all worked out as the 15th-ranked Gators were again chosen to host the first two rounds of NCAA Tournament action.

“It's huge for us,” senior Elliott Orkin said. “These two matches are really important, so to be able to host them when we were a little bit on the bubble is big. We've had some good wins along the road, and we feel like we deserved a spot to host. We got it, so we're going to try and make the most out of it.”

Fifth-year coach Bryan Shelton, who led UF to the NCAA quarterfinals in 2016, echoed those sentiments.

“For our guys, we're really excited to be here at home,” he said. “That was one of our goals was to put ourselves in that position to host. Now that we've given ourselves that opportunity, the goal is to advance and play well.

“I feel like our team hasn't really hit on all cylinders this season, and there's no better time than the present to start doing that. Our seniors, especially Orkin and (Maxx) Lipman, were disappointed in our last match against Georgia. When we were up 3-2, they were the last two guys on the court, so I know they want to kind of avenge those losses and come back and play well at home. I expect us to perform really well against some really good competition.”

Florida was 17-9 this year, including a 9-3 mark in Southeastern Conference action.

The Gators will square off against FGCU (10-12) at 5 p.m. today in first-round NCAA play, following the opening match between Georgia Tech (17-7) and Minnesota (17-10) that starts at 2.

Sophomore Alfredo Perez has led the way for UF playing No. 1 singles and teaming with freshman Johannes Ingildsen at No. 1 doubles.

“I think we're going to do very good,” Perez said. “We've just got to keep our heads up and play our tennis, and we can beat these teams.”

Orkin, who joins Lipman as the only seniors on this year's squad, began the season at No. 3 singles but has played at the No. 2 spot in 14 of UF's last 15 matches.

In addition, both Orkin and Perez have been selected to compete in the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships later this month in Athens, GA., site of this year's NCAA Championships. The Individual Championships are set for May 24-29 at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex.

“You still go into every practice trying to improve as much as you can and trying to help improve your teammates,” Orkin said. “Obviously in the back of my mind I know that my matches as a Gator are limited to no more than six even if we go all the way to the finals.

“It's onward to Athens if we can qualify, and I'm just going to enjoy every single moment of it.”




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