Florida Gators: Men’s tennis looks for repeat

The 2021 season was a magical one for the Florida Gators men’s tennis team. The team captured their first ever national title, as well as the individual singles national title. Florida finished the year with an incredible 26-2 mark, both losses coming by a narrow 4-3 defeat. One of those losses came in their 4th match of the year at Texas, the other coming in the SEC championship to Tennessee.

Despite a crushing loss to the rival Volunteers in the SEC championship match, the Gators would rally in a big way in the NCAA tournament. Absolutely dismantling their opponents, they recorded three 4-0 victories, and three 4-1 victories on their way to the title. Florida also avenged their early season loss to Texas, beating them 4-0 in the NCAA semifinals. They would cap it off with a 4-1 victory over Baylor to win the first national title in program history.

Sam Riffice of the Florida Gators, competed at the US Open

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 30: Sam Riffice of the United States returns against Grigor Dimitrov of Bulgaria during their men’s singles first round match on Day One of the 2021 US Open at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center on August 30, 2021 in the Flushing neighborhood of the Queens borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Just six days after the team captured glory, Sam Riffice captured individual glory. Riffice won six straight matches in the NCAA tournament and captured the singles national championship. Riffice would also receive a wildcard into the US Open as the NCAA champion.

The Florida Gators kick off their 2022 campaign with a road match-up at TCU on January 14th, and start the quest to win back-to-back national championships. The Gators were recently ranked number one in the first poll of the 2022 season.

The expectations are high for this team, as they should be. The Gators return five out of six singles players who started in the national championship match in May 2021. On top of that several players were highly ranked in the first ITA individual player rankings of the 2021-2022 season.

ITA Singles rankings (Florida)

2. Sam Riffice

4. Duarte Vale

14. Andy Andrade

33. Blaise Bicknell

59. Josh Goodger 

86. Ben Shelton

111. Lukas Greif 

The Florida Gators boast an impressive seven players inside the top-125, including three players inside the top-15. Anchoring the team will again be Sam Riffice. The 2021 individual NCAA champion posted a 32-7 record last season, playing the majority of his matches out of the number 2 singles spot. Riffice lost in the first-round of the US Open to former world number 3 Grigor Dimitrov. I’m sure the young American would love to capture another title at the NCAA’s and receive another direct wildcard into the 2022 US Open. Not to be overlooked is another returning senior, Duarte Vale. Vale posted an impressive 17-6 mark in the number 1 singles spot last season, he played just 3 tournament matches over the fall season winning just one.

The Gators have all the tools necessary to repeat as champions in 2022, with a little added motivation. Despite winning the national championship last year, the Gators didn’t win it all. Tennessee stole the SEC tournament title away from Florida, despite the Gators handling the Vols, 5-2 in their regular season match-up. Expect this team to be even more motivated to capture the SEC championship in 2022.