UF men's tennis sweeps St. John's in NCAA 1st round

Florida sophomore Gordon Watson (pictured) and teammate Florent Diep helped the Gators clinch the doubles point in 49 minutes with their win over St. John's No. 1 pairing in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

Brad McClenny/Staff photographer/FILE
Published: Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 8:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 10, 2014 at 8:36 p.m.

An extended delay did not prevent 15th-ranked Florida from making Big East champion St. John's inaugural NCAA tournament experience a brief one.


NCAA men's tennis

Who: South Florida (19-6) vs. Florida (16-9)
When: 2 p.m. today
Where: Ring Tennis Complex on UF campus

Senior Mike Alford and sophomore Diego Hidalgo were both double-winners, and freshman Elliott Orkin provided the clinching point as the No. 14 seed Gators (16-9) posted a 4-0 win over the Red Storm (16-8) Saturday at Linder Stadium.

“I'm proud of our guys,” second-year UF coach Bryan Shelton said. “We came out and played good doubles and we were able to establish some momentum in singles and finish it off.”

The match started more than an hour late due to a marathon opener between Florida State and South Florida that went down to the wire before the No. 22 Bulls (19-6) advanced with a 4-2 win, ending the Seminoles' season at 19-12.

The late start did not curb UF's enthusiasm.

It took the Gators just 49 minutes to capture the doubles point with wins at No. 1 from the 20th-ranked tandem of senior Florent Diep and sophomore Gordon Watson (8-3) and at No. 3 from Alford and Hidalgo (8-5).

After a 10-minute break, the left-handed Hidalgo made quick work of his opponent at No. 4 singles in a 6-0, 6-0, 55-minute whitewash to make it 2-0, UF.

Alford followed with a 6-0, 6-1 victory on the adjacent court at No. 6 to put UF a point from victory, and Orkin, an All-SEC Freshman pick, closed it out with his first NCAA tournament win, a 6-4, 6-2 victory at No. 5.

“It's always a good feeling to get the clinch, especially in the NCAA tournament, but it wasn't just me that got the win today,” Orkin said. “We did great in doubles, and there were two other guys in singles that got wins.”

For Shelton and the Gators, the victory was big.

“I felt like we prepared well after exams ended,” Shelton said. “The guys were focused just on the tennis and really did a good job of making sure they were ready.

“A year ago, we lost to Denver in the first round, so it certainly feels good to come out here and get a decisive win against a very good St. John's team.”

The Bulls figure to be a tougher out. USF has won 14 of its last 17 matches en route to the highest ranking in program history, capped by a clutch win in Saturday's opening match.

After FSU, which defeated USF 4-3 during the regular season, captured the doubles point, the singles went back and forth, with the final three matches going to third sets and the score tied at 2-all.

The Bulls came through with back-to-back wins just minutes apart by Federico Sabogal (6-0, 4-6, 6-4) at No. 6 and Ignacio Gonzalez (5-7, 6-3, 6-0) at No. 5, respectively, making irrelevant the outcome at No. 2 where FSU's Cristian Gonzalez Mendez was up 5-4 in the third set when play was halted.

The winner of Sunday's second-round match between the Gators and the Bulls advances to the Round of 16 at the upcoming NCAA championships in Athens, Ga.

“We're really looking forward to it,” Orkin said. “Coach has been talking all year about getting to Athens, and we're one match away. We've got a tough test against South Florida, but I think we're really prepared and we're going to get the job done.”

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