Florida Men Advance to the SEC Tennis Championship
ATHENS, Ga. (April 22, 2022) - Playing a rematch of the 2021 SEC Tournament final, the No. 3 Florida Gators would get their revenge on the No. 5 Tennessee Volunteers, who defeated the Orange & Blue 4-3 in last year's final, with an impressive 4-1 victory on Saturday afternoon at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex to advance to the championship round of the tournament for the third time since 2016.
The match started off in exciting fashion as both the Gators (22-2) and the Vols (22-7) put some impressive doubles work on display. Tennessee got off to a fast start at court two, taking the match by a score of 6-4, forcing the Gators to win the remaining two contests to clinch the doubles point.
When UT won its match at court two, both Gators doubles teams were up on their opponents as the No. 10 pair of Sam Riffice and Ben Shelton had a 5-4 lead on No. 25 Adam Walton and Pat Harper and the duo of Nate Bonetto and Duarte Vale were ahead of Mark Wallner and Johannus Monday, 6-5.
The Riffice/Shelton duo would even the doubles competition after collecting a 6-4 victory at court one, which is their eighth win against a ranked team, moving everyone's attention to the match on court three where the Tennessee duo would force a tiebreaker with a 6-6 score. In what was a back-and-forth breaker that saw four different match points, the Bonetto/Vale tandem would prevail with a 7-6 (8) win to give the Gators their 17th doubles point in a row.
Needing only three singles wins to claim the match, the Gators had a tall task ahead but never backed down from the challenge. In singles play, both teams would each tally three first-set wins apiece, while three matches also went into a third set.
Florida would extend its lead to 2-0 after No. 87-ranked Vale defeated No. 72 Emile Hudd in straight-sets, 6-4, 6-3, for his 16th singles win on the year. With his victory in both doubles and singles, Vale became only the fourth player in program history to collect 200 overall career wins (109 singles, 91 doubles). He moves to 16-4 at the three spot and is on a six-match win streak.
The Gators went up 3-0 when No. 116 Josh Goodger came up big on court six with a straight-set win over Martin Prata, 7-5, 6-3. In the first set, Goodger and Prata, who was once ranked in the top-30 of the ITA singles rankings, were both tied at 5-all when the Vol went up 40-love in points. Goodger fought back and ended up winning the game to go ahead, 6-5. Then, Prata took another 40-0 lead in the next game, but the senior from England kept on battling and would win the remaining points to take a 7-5 first set. He only allowed the Vol three games in the second set for his 16th victory of the season.
Tennessee would add a point on the board with a win at court two, but that would be all as the attention turned to court four for the potential match clinch.
No. 122 Andy Andrade came up clutch for Florida as the senior tallied his sixth match clinch of the season with a huge victory over Shunsuke Mitsui. After dropping the first set, 4-6, the Gator would come back and win the next two sets by 6-2, 6-1 scores to put the Vols away. In doing so, he picked up his 26th overall singles win and is 18-4 at the No. 4 position. Pushing his win streak to eight matches, Andrade now sits at 199 overall career wins and could potentially join Vale in hitting the 200-win mark tomorrow.
Florida will make its 11th appearance in the SEC Tournament finals tomorrow as the team extends its win streak to 17 matches in a row and 18-2 against ranked opponents. Today's victory also marks the eighth time the Gators have defeated a top-5 team this season.
UP NEXT: The Gators face the No. 10 Kentucky Wildcats in the championship round of the SEC Tournament on Sunday, April 24 at 2 p.m. and the match will be streamed on SEC Network.
1. #1 Ben Shelton (UF) vs. #7 Adam Walton (UT), 6-4, 6-7 (6-8), 1-2, unfinished
2. #12 Johannus Monday (UT) def. #27 Sam Riffice (UF), 6-4, 7-6 (7-4)
3. #87 Duarte Vale (UF) def. #72 Emile Hudd (UT), 6-4, 6-3
4. #122 Andy Andrade (UF) def. Shunsuke Mitsui (UT), 4-6, 6-2, 6-1
5. Mattias Siimar (UF) vs. Angel Diaz (UT), 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 3-3, unfinished
6. #116 Josh Goodger (UF) def. Martim Prata (UT), 7-5, 6-3 Order of Finish: 3, 6, 2, 4
1. #10 Sam Riffice/Ben Shelton (UF) def. #25 Adam Walton/Pat Harper (UT), 6-4
2. #21 Emile Hudd/Shunsuke Mitsui (UT) def. #37 Andy Andrade/Mattias Siimar (UF), 6-4
3. Duarte Vale/Nate Bonetto (UF) def. Mark Wallner/Johannus Monday (UT), 7-6 (10-8) Order of Finish: 2, 1, 3