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Sunday May 16, 2010Men's Tennis Sweeps Auburn, Earns Spot in NCAA Round of 16

Gainesville, Fla.

The sixth-seeded Florida men’s tennis team (21-4) swept Auburn, 4-0, on Sunday at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex, earning a place in the NCAA Round of 16.

 

“We’re very excited to win and very excited to move on to the Round of 16,” said UF head coach Andy Jackson. I thought it was a very difficult match because of the quality of Auburn’s team, very much like the other two matches that we played. We fought very hard. We pushed through, and the guys had really done a lot of work. They deserve it, in my opinion. We’re going to the Round of 16, and I don’t know how many teams have a chance but we’re one of the teams that have a chance. Regardless, we’re going to be ready to go Friday night.”

 

The win sends Florida into the Round of 16 for the 16th time in the past 20 years and the eighth in Jackson’s nine seasons leading the program.

 

Sunday’s victory was Florida’s third against Auburn (12-13) this season, following wins in the SEC regular season and the SEC Tournament semifinals. Florida has now reached 21 wins in a season for the third time in nine seasons under Jackson after achieving that mark six times in the previous 62 years.

 

The Gators next travel to the tournament’s finals site in Athens, Ga., and face host Georgia on Friday, May 21, at 6 p.m. Florida has also beaten the Bulldogs twice this season, posting wins over Georgia in February’s ITA National Team Indoor Championships and in Gainesville during the SEC regular season.

 

Florida jumped out to the early lead on Sunday, winning doubles in convincing fashion. After No. 68 Sekou Bangoura Jr. (Bradenton, Fla.) and Joey Burkhardt (St. Augustine, Fla.) posted an 8-3 win on court two, eighth-ranked Antoine Benneteau (Boulogne-Billancourt, France) and Alexandre Lacroix (Paris, France) clinched the point for UF with an identical 8-3 victory on court one against 10th-ranked Tim Puetz and Alex Stamchev.

 

Bangoura got the Gators rolling in singles play, with a dominating 6-2, 6-1 court five victory over Oliver Strecker that lasted just an hour and three minutes. It marked Bangoura’s 20th singles dual match victory this spring, the first Gator to reach that plateau this season.

 

“I was definitely really nervous coming into today, but that’s where the team aspect comes in,” Bangoura said. “Everybody’s helping you out and pushing you and supporting you. Today was really exciting, and it was even better that I could play well and get a point on the board for the Gators.”

 

Benneteau, a senior playing in his last career match in Gainesville, came up with a big win against Stamchev on court three, giving the Gators a 3-0 edge while avenging a loss to Stamchev in the teams’ regular-season meeting.

 

“It feels good, obviously,” Benneteau said. “I didn’t think too much about it until this morning, when I realized that it was going to be my last match at home here. Of course, I’m kind of sad about it, but I’m just so happy for the team, for all these guys that I’ve been working with this whole year, that we’re about to make it to the Sweet 16. That happiness just takes all the room in my heart.”

 

For the second consecutive day, the clincher came from Nassim Slilam (Paris France) on court six. Slilam posted a 6-4, 6-3 win over Andy Mies to send the Gators into the Sweet 16 and preserve the 4-0 sweep.


“I’m so happy about what Nassim did during these two days,” Benneteau said. “He’s been through a lot this semester with a new language and going to school…He came here, and he has everything to prove. It’s a big adjustment for him to make, and he’s doing it pretty well. He still has work to do, but I still have work to do. We’re just trying to help him. It’s great that he’s able to clinch that kind of match because it shows a lot of toughness.”

 

The Gators are one of four SEC schools advancing to the Round of 16, along with Georgia, Kentucky and Tennessee.

 

Florida vs. Auburn

NCAA Second Round

Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex

Gainesville, Fla.

May 16, 2010

 

Doubles

1 – (8) Antoine Benneteau/Alexandre Lacroix (UF) vs. (10) Tim Puetz/Alex Stamchev (AU) – 8-3*

2 – (68) Sekou Bangoura Jr./Joey Burkhardt (UF) def. Tim Hewitt/Lucas Lopasso (AU) – 8-3

3 – Daniel Cash/Bob Van Overbeek (UF) vs. Andy Mies/Oliver Strecker (AU) – 7-4 (DNF)

 

Order of Finish: 2, 1*

 

Singles

1 – (7) Alexandre Lacroix (UF) vs. (16) Tim Puetz (AU) – 5-7, 5-5 (DNF)

2 – (110) Joey Burkhardt (UF) vs. Tim Hewitt (AU) – 3-6, 6-5 (DNF)

3 – Antoine Benneteau (UF) def. (105) Alex Stamchev (AU) – 6-3, 6-2

4 – Bob Van Overbeek (UF) vs. Lucas Lopasso (AU) – 3-6, 6-3, 2-3 (DNF)

5 – Sekou Bangoura Jr. (UF) def. Oliver Strecker (AU) – 6-2, 6-1

6 – Nassim Slilam (UF) def. Andy Mies (AU) – 6-4, 6-3*

 

Order of Finish: 5, 3, 6*

 

Florida head coach Andy Jackson

On his thoughts on the match:

“We’re very excited to win and very excited to move on to the Round of 16. I thought it was a very difficult match because of the quality of Auburn’s team, very much like the other two matches that we played. We fought very hard. We pushed through, and the guys had really done a lot of work. They deserve it, in my opinion. We’re going to the Round of 16, and I don’t know how many teams have a chance but we’re one of the teams that have a chance. Regardless, we’re going to be ready to go Friday night.”

 

On Antoine Benneteau’s performance:

“Last year at this time, we came into the same room when we lost to Miami in a very tough 4-3 loss, and Antoine was playing with a sports hernia and didn’t say one word about it…He’s worked for a year to get back to today. I know he was thinking about it today. I know he’s thought about it a lot this year. Today, he was ready to go and beat an extremely good player pretty convincingly. It’s just good, hard work paying off.”

 

On going to Athens:

“We’re really excited to go to Athens. It’s a place that I’ve been going 30 years. It’s one of the reasons why I love college tennis so much.”

 

Florida freshman Sekou Bangoura Jr.

On how quick his singles match was:

“Yeah, it was quick today. I served really well today. I felt good going into the match and was confident and playing pretty well. My goal today was just to go out and get the job done, so it worked out.”

 

On how he feels he and Joey Burkhardt are doing in doubles at this point:

“Right now, we feel great. We feel really confident, especially after today. Today, we played a great match, both served well, both volleyed well. There was really no hesitation today, so going into Athens we feel good. We’re just taking one step at a time and see what happens.”

 

On if they thought about sending Antoine Benneteau out with a win:

“Yeah, of course. We wanted to get the job done…He’s been really working hard and playing well. He was confident today and got the job done.”

 

On playing in NCAAs at home as a freshman:

“It was incredible. I was definitely really nervous coming into today, but that’s where the team aspect comes in. Everybody’s helping you out and pushing you and supporting you. Today was really exciting, and it was even better that I could play well and get a point on the board for the Gators.”

 

Florida senior Antoine Benneteau

On how it feels to close out his home career with a team win and an ace to win his match:

“It feels good, obviously. I didn’t think too much about it until this morning, when I realized that it was going to be my last match at home here. Of course, I’m kind of sad about it, but I’m just so happy for the team, for all these guys that I’ve been working with this whole year, that we’re about to make it to the Sweet 16. That happiness just takes all the room in my heart.”

 

On the dealing with the heat while facing an opponent who beat him earlier this spring:

“It was hard because I tried not to show it. I was getting tired trying to do all the work all the time on every point. But in the back of my head, I had something in the back of my head telling me that he was getting tired defending all of the time. So it gave me the strength to keep going, and it was working. The biggest part was trying not to show the guy that I was getting tired, but I was getting tired. It was 6-3, 6-2, but the score didn’t reflect that it was very tight.”

 

On Nassim Slilam getting the clinching point in both matches this weekend:

“I’m so happy about what Nassim did during these two days. He’s been through a lot this semester with a new language and going to school…He came here, and he has everything to prove. It’s a big adjustment for him to make, and he’s doing it pretty well. He still has work to do, but I still have work to do. We’re just trying to help him. It’s great that he’s able to clinch that kind of match because it shows a lot of toughness.”

 

Auburn head coach Eric Shore

On his thoughts on the match:

“It’s the third time we’ve played them this year, and we lost the doubles point all three times. The first two times, we felt like we had a very good chance and should’ve won the doubles point. However, Florida jumped on us and, credit to them, they got off to a good start and got on us. So they earned that doubles point. But we still felt in singles that if we won in certain spots we had a very good opportunity. You’ve got to get to four points, and they did before we did. We had chances. We were looking good in those other three matches. I think the swing match was on court three. Our guy had beaten him down here earlier in the year when we played them. [Antoine Benneteau] played very well today and got on top of [Alex] Stamchev. Alex has been very solid for us all year, and today was not his day. Credit to Florida’s player, that was a big match right there. If we get back in that second set and split there, who knows what’s going to happen?”

 

On whether he feels like his team accomplished a lot of positive things this season:

“Absolutely. The nice thing is we don’t have any seniors. People have talked about Florida having a young team, but we don’t have any seniors either. We play freshmen at four, five and six and a first-year player at two…We were 4-9, and a lot of people wrote us off. I thought that the guys battled well and got better as the year went on. We feel like hosting is obviously a big advantage. We’ve known that for years. Next year, we’ve got to take that next step. I think being a little better in doubles and a little better down the line and we’ve got the potential to host next year and make it our year. Florida’s got a good team, and they’re well-coached. I wish them the best at the tournament.”

 

-UF-

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