Sunday March 17, 2013Florida Men's Tennis Upsets No. 6 Tennessee, 4-3, in Knoxville
The Florida men’s tennis team picked up its biggest victory of the season on Sunday, beating No. 6 Tennessee, 4-3, in Knoxville. After winning the doubles point, Gator freshman Luke Johnson clinched the win with a three-set victory at No. 6 singles over the Vols’ John Collins.
“There were some positive things that happened throughout the match. The biggest thing was that in the end, we got the job done,” said head coach Bryan Shelton. “We’ve been close in some matches and haven’t been able to pull through in a lot of them. It felt good to be able to get it done today and be able to out-compete Tennessee. They’re a very good team; they’re scrappy and they fight hard. Every SEC win is tough to get. I felt like our guys battled hard on the road to get the win on Sunday after getting beat on Friday. I thought that was a good effort from our team.”
Florida (8-6, 2-2 SEC) used a solid performance in doubles to earn the first point against Tennessee (15-6, 2-3 SEC). UT opened with a victory at No. 1 doubles, as No. 17 Mikelis Libietis and Hunter Reese beat Bob van Overbeek and Stephane Piro, 8-5. Junior Florent Diep and Johnson responded with a win at No. 3 doubles, beating the Vols’ Jarryd Chaplin and Brandon Fickey, 8-5.
On court two, the Gators’ Billy Federhofer and Gordon Watson were even at 7-7 with Tennessee’s Collins and Edward Jones, but the UF duo won the final two games to secure the doubles point and give Florida a 1-0 lead in the match.
“I was happy with how we competed in the doubles right off the bat,” Coach Shelton said after the match. “I think we handled the pressure well when we had to, especially winning that doubles match at No. 2. Gordon and Billy were able to serve it out and just played a really solid game on Billy’s serve. I think he put three out of four first serves in the court and Gordon was aggressive and made plays up at the net and they really just took it. I was pleased with how well we competed in the doubles and how we executed under pressure there.”
The momentum carried over into singles for the Gators, as Piro was first off the court with a 6-0, 6-4 win over Fickey at No. 3 singles. Federhofer came in next to give UF a 3-0 lead, beating Chaplin, 6-4, 6-4, on court four.
The Vols mounted a comeback that made things interesting. Jones beat Watson at No. 5 singles and Libietis, ranked sixth in the nation, beat Diep at No. 1 singles to pull within 3-2. In No. 2 singles, Reese took the first set from van Overbeek, 6-2, but van Overbeek fought back with a 7-5 second-set win to force a third set. Reese was too much in the end, outlasting van Overbeek, 6-0, in the third set to even the match at 3-3 overall.
In the deciding match on court six, Johnson and Collins split the first two sets, with Johnson winning the second in a tiebreak after dropping the first set. In the third set, Johnson got ahead 3-0, but then lost the next three games and trailed 4-3. Johnson then rallied to take four of the next five games and win the match, clinching the Gators’ first win over a top-10 opponent this season.
“It was funny to look at Luke, because his eyes got so big at one point during that third set,” said Coach Shelton. “I think the pressure kind of mounted and I thought he was able to regroup after he got down and was able to play some of his best tennis at the end of the match. I’ve got to give credit to [assistant coach] Amer Delic. He was down with Luke throughout the match today and he’s been working hard with Luke. It’s good to see some of that hard work pay off.”
Florida will conclude its five-match road swing next weekend, traveling to Alabama on Friday and Auburn on Sunday. The Gators will return home March 29 to face LSU at 5 p.m. at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex.
#35 Florida 4, #6 Tennessee 3
1. #6 Mikelis Libietis (UT) def. #75 Florent Diep (UF) 7-6, 6-3
2. #29 Hunter Reese (UT) def. #123 Bob van Overbeek (UF) 6-2, 5-7, 6-0
3. Stephane Piro (UF) def. #115 Brandon Fickey (UT) 6-0, 6-4
4. Billy Federhofer (UF) def. Jarryd Chaplin (UT) 6-4, 6-4
Edward Jones (UT) def. Gordon Watson (UF) 7-5, 6-2
6. Luke Johnson (UF) def. John Collins (UT) 4-6, 7-6, 7-5
1. #17 Libietis/Reese def. #57 Piro/van Overbeek (UF) 8-5
2. Watson/Federhofer (UF) def. #61 Collins/Jones (UT) 9-7
3. Diep/Johnson (UF) def. Chaplin/Fickey (UT) 8-5
Florida 8-6 (2-2); National ranking #35
Tennessee 15-6 (2-3); National ranking #6
Order of finish: Doubles (1, 3, 2); Singles (3, 4, 5, 1, 2, 6)