Bulls prove no match

Published: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 31, 2003 at 12:46 a.m.

Had the Florida men's tennis team played a school other than South Florida on Thursday, there may have been a potential letdown for the Gators.

After all, the big match of the week is Saturday's showdown at No. 2 Illinois.

But given how close the UF-USF matches have been the past two years, Florida took No. 21 South Florida seriously. And the fifth-ranked Gators avoided the upset with a 7-0 shutout in front of 150 at the Ring Tennis Complex.

"Last year, we beat them twice 4-3, and they felt like they should have won twice, and they have a better team this year," said UF senior Olivier Levant, who won the clincher at No. 4 singles. "We were expecting them to just fight and we didn't expect the 7-0 (win). We were expecting a 4-3 (score) to go either way, and we're very happy about this win."

Florida (3-0) has won three in a row against USF (1-2), including last season's 4-3 victory in the second round of the NCAA Championships.

"I think there was a potential (for a letdown) anyway, but I think we had some ammunition with our guys because they should have beaten us in the biggest match of the year last year," UF coach Andy Jackson said. "I think that, that really helped us."

The Gators won in straight sets at Nos. 1-5 singles and had relatively easy second-set wins in each of those matches. Four of the second-set victories were by either 6-1 or 6-2.

"When we got ahead, it was difficult for them," Jackson said. "To our credit, we got ahead."

The closest second-set wins at those courts was Levant's 6-4, 6-4 defeat of Reanto Silveira. The two stayed on serve in the second set until the ninth game.

Levant broke Silveira serve to take a 5-4 lead and then held in the following game for the win.

"In the first set, I did a really good job of returning his serve deep all the time, and at that point I was much better than he was. I was dictating with my forehand and he was on defense," Levant said. "In the second set, I don't know why, but I was missing the return a lot and I was giving him two or three easy points right away. ... I don't think it was as close as it looked on the scoreboard."

Doris Yon can be reached at (352) 374-5052 or yond@gvillesun.com.

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