By Jim Harvin, Correspondent
The 2019 Southeastern Conference Men’s Tennis Championship will be contested in Gainesville starting Wednesday, with regular-season champion and host Florida drawing the No. 1 seed.
The Gators (20-2, 12-0 SEC) are coming off their first outright SEC crown since 2003 and their first conference crown since sharing the title with Ole Miss in 2005.
“I’m just really proud of them for them just always wanting to ante up every single day,” UF coach Bryan Shelton said. “They ante up in practice and they come out in the matches. We’re in one of the toughest leagues in the country, and for our guys to do what they’ve done just tells you the quality of the character that they have. We’re just really blessed to be in this position and to have the opportunities that we have here. We don’t take them for granted.”
Tournament action begins with a play-in match Wednesday at 3 p.m. between No. 13 seed Auburn and No. 12 seed Arkansas (Note: Missouri does not field a men’s tennis team).
The winner of that match will take on No. 5 seed Georgia in the last of four matches to be played Thursday with a scheduled starting time of 6 p.m.
Thursday’s action gets underway at 9 a.m. when No. 6 seed South Carolina takes on No. 11 seed LSU. That will be followed by matches between No. 7 Vanderbilt and No. 10 Kentucky at noon, No. 8 Ole Miss and No. 9 Alabama at 3 p.m., and Georgia taking on the winner of the Arkansas-Auburn match in the day’s finale at 6 p.m.
The top four seeds — No. 1 UF, No. 2 Mississippi State, No. 3 Texas A&M and No. 4 Tennessee — won’t begin play until Friday.
Florida’s first opponent will be the winner of Thursday’s Ole Miss-Alabama match.
Mississippi State is the defending tournament champion.
“It’s great to be part of a team and part of a program,” Shelton said. “When you do things on your own it’s not nearly as satisfying. But when you are part of an organization like this, a university like this, a program like this and an athletic department like this, we’ve got successful coaches and teams everywhere around here. To be a part of that is pretty special.
“We have the mentality of every day we’re trying to get better. We take it one day at a time. We’re not promised tomorrow, so we focus on today.”
Tickets will be sold on a one-day or all-session pass. One-day tickets are $5 for adults and $2 for those 12 and under, while all-session passes are $15 for adults and $10 for those 12 and under. UF students with proper ID will be admitted free.
“The SEC is loaded,” Shelton noted. “We have one of the best conferences in the country, we’ve got the best coaches and we’ve got some of the best athletes. It’s going to be great competition all week, not only our matches. It’ll be great and I hope our spectators and fans and the community really come out and support this tournament.”
SEC Tennis Championship
At Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex, UF campus
Match 1: Arkansas 4, Auburn 1
Match 2: South Carolina vs. LSU, 9 a.m.
Match 3: Kentucky vs. Vanderbilt, 12 p.m.
Match 4: Ole Miss vs. Alabama, 3 p.m.
Match 5: Georgia vs. Arkansas, 6 p.m.
Updated Friday Schedule
Friday’s schedule has been updated due to the weather forecast:
Match 6: Texas A&M vs. Winner of Match 2, 8 a.m., Courts 7-12
Match 7: Mississippi State vs. Winner of Match 3, 8 a.m., Courts 1-6
Match 8: Florida vs. Winner of Match 4, 12 p.m., Courts 1-6
Match 9: Tennessee vs. Winner of Match 5, 4 p.m., Courts 1-6
However, in the event that the matches are moved indoors, Texas A&M will take court first, followed by Mississippi State. Florida will be the third match on court and we will conclude the day with Tennessee’s match. Seating indoors is on a first come first serve basis and we will not have live scoring or live streaming.
Match 10: Winner of Match 6 vs. Winner of Match 7, 12 p.m.
Match 11: Winner of Match 8 vs. Winner of Match 9, 3 p.m.
Championship Match: Saturday’s winners, 2 p.m.