The UCF men’s tennis team swept Florida Atlantic 7-0 Sunday night at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona, giving the team its seventh sweep of the season.
UCF officially won the match when freshman Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi clinched the team's third singles point on court five, defeating Ignacio Garcia 7-5, 6-1.
UCF Director of Tennis John Roddick said that despite a few tight matches, he was proud that the Knights were able to hold their own and outlast their opponents.
“The nice thing is, we dug through it,” Roddick said. “Those are the things we’ve been really working on since January, February. We were struggling a bit, we had to get better at those things.”
UCF started the match strong by winning the doubles point. The duo of freshmen Bogdan Pavel and Trey Hilderbrand defeated Garcia and Jason Legall 6-4 on court one. This was the fifth straight doubles victory for Pavel and Hilderbrand.
“Me and Boggy [Pavel] play together really well,” Hilderbrand said. “He hits the ball big, I'm good at the net — we're just a really good combination. We suit each other really well.”
After the win on court one, Grassi Mazzuchi and sophomore Gabriel Decamps defeated Mehdi Laalej and Gabriel Sidney 6-2 on court two to secure the doubles point for the Knights.
“We’ve been working very hard,” Decamps said. “The other guys are understanding a competing standpoint. Everyone is working hard, everyone wants to win, everyone is getting better.”
Their victory left freshman Manoel Alencar and sophomore Mikhail Sokolovskiy’s match against Kirac Bekisoglu and Thomas Guy unfinished. Bekisoglu and Guy led 5-3 before UCF clinched the doubles point.
In singles action, UCF quickly secured a point in straight sets. Decamps bested Legall 6-1, 6-1 on court one, giving the Knights their first singles point of the match.
“I'm just focusing on us and focusing on our team instead of focusing on the other players,” Decamps said. “I’m just trying to focus on all the things that [coaches] John [Roddick] and Matt [Walters] told us to do, and it worked. Just taking care of business.”
Soon after Decamps' win, Pavel beat Sidney 6-4, 6-2 on court four, giving the Knights another point. Grassi Mazzuchi then beat Garcia on court five 7-5, 6-1, clinching a victory for the Knights.
Despite the overall outcome having already been decided, the two teams had agreed to play out the rest of the singles matches at the beginning of the match.
The remaining singles matches were tighter than the first three. On court six, Sokolovskiy beat Alvaro Fernandez Horta 7-6 (7-0), 6-1. The first set of the match was extremely close, with the two trading points back and forth. After beating his opponent in the tiebreaker, Sokolovskiy kicked it in gear and won the second set with little resistance.
On court two, UCF sophomore Alan Rubio made a comeback and defeated Bekisoglu 4-6, 6-3, 10-3. Rubio lost the first set and bounced back to win the second set. The match between Grassi Mazzuchi and Garcia had ended before the start of Rubio’s third set, so Rubio and Bekisoglu settled the third set in a super tiebreaker. Rubio went on to win, putting the Knights ahead 6-0.
Hilderbrand was the last player to wrap up his singles match. After a long match, he defeated Laalej 6-3, 1-6, 6-4 to complete the sweep for UCF.
“I really didn’t want to be the only one that lost on the team,” Hilderbrand said. “I just kept fighting and kept competing because I really wanted the shutout for myself and for the team.”
Hilderbrand was up in the first set, but missed several serves and delivered some out-of-bounds shots to put Laalej ahead during set two. Hildebrand and Laalej’s third set had begun before Grassi Mazzuchi clinched the victory, so they would go to play out the entire set. Hilderbrand and Laalej were close in the third set, but Hilderbrand responded and finished strong for the win.
Roddick said that recovery after getting broken and keeping a level head throughout the whole match will ensure a better game. He said that Hilderbrand had some shaky moments during his match, but was ultimately able to pull through.
“The best servers of all time are barely holding serve 90%,” Roddick said. “That's about a set and a half or so, and they’re getting broken. You just have to come to grips with that and know that it's going to happen and deal with it. You just have to get back to work.”
Sunday's victory marked the Knights’ 11th of the season, bringing their record to 11-9 overall.
The Knights return to the court Sunday, April 14 in Tampa, facing off with the South Florida Bulls in another installment of the War on I-4 rivalry series.
“There's a lot of important tennis to be played for us,” Roddick said. “You are getting to the end, but you’re also getting toward the biggest matches and the most pressure.”