Miami men’s tennis comes up short against No. 2 Florida in NCAA Team Championship

Freshman Casper Christensen preparing for a serve during Miami's match against Florida on May 7. at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, Fla.
Freshman Casper Christensen preparing for a serve during Miami's match against Florida on May 7. at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex in Gainesville, Fla. Photo credit: Miami Athletics

After defeating No. 45 USF on Friday, the Hurricanes lost in a close affair to the Gators on Saturday afternoon.

The Hurricanes (17-10) were major underdogs heading into the match. The Gators (25-2) were fresh off a dominant SEC tournament victory. They easily dispatched New Orleans the round before and were led by the No. 2 player in the nation, Ben Shelton. Five of Florida’s top six singles players were ranked in the top 120. No. 62 Dan Martin was the only ranked player for the Canes.

In doubles, there was never any doubt. The No. 5 duo in the country of Sam Riffice and Ben Shelton dispatched juniors Franco Aubone and Juan Martin Jalif, 3-6. At the same time, Bonetto and Vale raced past Martin and senior Bojan Jankulovski, 3-6, on Court 3.

With Florida only three points away, Miami would have to post its best singles performance of the season. At the start, things were extremely competitive. In the first few games, the Canes were tied or winning on all six courts.

However, cracks in the ranks began to form.

On Court 2, Jankuloski initially went up a break but began to lose steam against No. 28 Riffice. Jankulovski’s knee was heavily bandaged, and Florida capitalized, winning the match, 3-6, 0-6.

The story was the same for Benjamin Hannestad. The senior was also up an early break on Court 3, but No. 115 Duarte Vale responded. Vale won two close sets to give Florida its third point of the match, 3-6, 3-6.

Within seconds of Hannestad’s match ending, the season was over. On Court 6, freshman Casper Christensen put up a valiant effort but fell short to No. 119 Josh Goodger, 6-4, 6-4 to give Florida the 4-0 victory.

From these matches alone, the match would have seemed one-sided. UF made light work of the Canes to move on in the tournament. Yet, in the remaining matches, Miami had a fighting chance in every single one.

On Court 4, freshman Martin Katz was deadlocked with No. 117 Andy Andrade. Katz had led the entire way in the first set but faltered on a few crucial points to drop the set, 7-5. In the second set, Katz was not going away, and the match was on serve, 2-3, to Andrade when the match was called.

Turning to Court 1, Dan Martin was giving No. 2 Ben Shelton a run for his money. The graduate student was neck and neck with Shelton for the entire first set but lost the only break point he faced at 5-6 to give away the first set, 5-7.

In the second, Martin settled in. Shelton was an extremely hard hitter, but Martin’s deadly accuracy began to tear through the Gator’s defense. Martin would go on a four-game run, and the match was called while the score stood at 4-1 in the second set.

On Court 5, Aubone ensured Miami won at least one set. After rocketing up to a 5-1 lead, Mattias Siimar won five straight games. Aubone looked dead in the water, but at 5-6, he broke Siimar’s serve and forced a tiebreak. In the tiebreak, Aubone dominated, winning 7-1 to capture the set. He was winning 1-0 in the second set when the match was called.

Miami displayed heart and tenacity when playing the SEC juggernaut and accomplished a lot this season.

The Hurricanes recorded their highest-ranked win over No. 20 North Carolina State, and Dan Martin beat the No. 16 player in the nation in three sets. The Canes also pushed good teams like Wake Forest, Florida and Virginia in close losses.

The Canes recorded their third 15-win season in the last five years and will have many players returning next season.