Stellar singles play propels Florida past Auburn
AUBURN, Ala. - To open the 2023 SEC Tournament, the No. 24 Florida men's tennis team bounced back from an early doubles deficit and forged four convincing singles victories to surge past tournament host No. 22 Auburn, 4-1 at the Yarbrough Tennis Center.
Florida (14-12, 5-7 SEC) fell behind in doubles against Auburn (17-11, 5-7 SEC) to start the match. No. 31 Raul Dobai/Finn Murgett got the better of No. 4 Will Grant/Axel Nefve, 6-2 at the top doubles position and put the pressure on courts two and three to come through.
On court two, Nate Bonetto/Tanapatt Nirundorn fell behind 4-2 to Billy Blaydes/Jan Galka, but broke Auburn's serve the next game, held serve, and leveled the match at 4-4. The Gators tandem converted a break tied at 5-5 for their first lead of the match and served out the set for the 7-5 victory. Despite an early 3-1 lead on court three, Jonah Braswell/Lukas Greif couldn't hold off Alejandro Moreno/Tyler Stice and the doubles decider went to tiebreak. Moreno/Stice converted a mini break to start the breaker and sustained the advantage, winning 7-4 for the 1-0 advantage.
The response in singles from Florida was complete dominance from the jump. Courts one through six answered by securing each opening set and momentum was flipped in the Gators control. In the ranked-matchup on court one between No. 37 Nefve and No. 57 Stice, Nefve won the first two games and dropped just one game in the entire first set for the 6-1 opener. The two were locked at 3-3, but the graduate student rattled off three straight games and tied the match at one apiece. The victory over Stice marked Nefve's seventh ranked-victory of the spring.
In a display of dominance, Greif controlled Galka immediately on court four, as the senior refused to let the Auburn senior gain any ground and recorded a bagel in the first set. The second set appeared to be more of the same with Greif winning the first five and provided Florida the 2-1 lead with a straight-set victory, 6-0, 6-1.
Following up on court six was Nirundorn against Blaydes and the first set looked to go either way tied at 4-4. The freshman clutched up, winning the final two games, and grabbed the first set lead 6-4. Once again, the two freshmen foes were locked at four apiece in the following frame, and Nirundorn came through. The native of Thailand won the last two games and put the Gators within one point for the match victory up 3-1. Nirundorn improved to 7-2 in dual singles and has won seven of his last eight matches.
For just the second time this season, No. 95 Grant answered the call and played clincher for the Orange & Blue. The senior raced out to the opening set lead, 6-2 against No. 115 Moreno at the two singles position. The senior received some push back to begin the second frame and was initially tied 2-2, but Grant converted a break and moved past Moreno, 6-4 for the 4-1 Orange & Blue comeback victory. The Boca Raton, Fla. native added his fourth ranked-victory of the spring with the win.
The Gators will have a rematch against the No. 1 seed and No. 4 ranked Georgia tomorrow in the quarterfinals at 4 p.m. ET. During the regular season, Florida barely slipped 4-3 to the Bulldogs after winning the doubles point and picking up victories from Bonetto on court five and Nirundorn on court six.
- Florida improved to 2-0 in SEC Tournament against Auburn and 50-15 in the all-time series. The Gators improved their winning streak to 10 matches over the Tigers and are now 10-1 under head coach Bryan Shelton versus Auburn.
- The singles lineup featured three freshmen for the ninth time this season and the Gators improved to 7-2 when utilizing a trio of freshmen. This was the first time Jonah Braswell, Tanapatt Nirundorn and Olek Orlikowski all played in the singles lineup.
- For just the second time this season, Florida bounced back from dropping the doubles point and earned the comeback victory. The lone time prior was at Vanderbilt on March 18.
QUOTES FROM THE COURT
Head Coach Bryan Shelton
On the team's effort during today's match...
"I am really proud of the guys. It has been a fun year with a new group and the group has grown throughout the season. We are just proud to get a win today. After losing a doubles point I am glad to get a win against a good Auburn team."
Junior Will Grant
On the win...
"That was a good match. We came out slow in doubles. They really brought the energy, but we got a really good start in singles up and down the board. I think that really set the tone early."
On capturing the clinching point...
"I was looking down and we had a few early first sets, so I didn't know if I was going to get the clinch, but I saw I was the last one there, so I'm really happy to get that done. We've had a tough season, but our spirits are really high right now and we're really excited."
1. No. 31 Raul Dobai/Finn Murgett (AU) def. No. 4 Will Grant/Axel Nefve (UF), 6-2
2. Nate Bonetto/Tanapatt Nirundorn (UF) def. Billy Blaydes/Jan Galka (AU), 7-5
3. Alejandro Moreno/Tyler Stice (AU) def. Jonah Braswell/Lukas Greif (UF), 7-6 (4)
Order of Finish: 1, 2, 3
1. No. 37 Axel Nefve (UF) def. No. 57 Tyler Stice (AU), 6-1, 6-3
2. No. 95 Will Grant (UF) def. No. 115 Alejandro Moreno (AU), 6-2, 6-4
3. No. 86 Jonah Braswell (UF) vs Finn Murgett (AU), 6-4, 2-2, unfinished
4. Lukas Greif (UF) def. Jan Galka (AU), 6-0, 6-1
5. Olek Orlikowski (UF) vs Raul Dobai (AU), 6-3, 4-6, unfinished
6. Tanapatt Nirundorn (UF) def. Billy Blaydes (AU), 6-4, 6-4
Order of Finish: 1, 4, 6, 2