The No. 5 Tennessee men's tennis team fell to Florida 4-1 on Saturday and their run to repeat as SEC champs came to an end. No. 12 Johannus Monday score the only point for the Vols by winning a second set tiebreak to defeat No. 27 Sam Riffice in straight sets.
The match was much closer than what the final score says. If a few things had gone differently for the Vols, they could have been in Sunday’s SEC Championship.
The Vols dropped the doubles point by the slimmest of margins. After No. 21 Emile Hudd and Shunsuke Mitsui defeated No. 37 Andy Andrade and Mattias Siimar 6-4 on court three, No. 25 Pat Harper and Adam Walton fell on court one to set the score at 1-1 for the doubles point.
Monday and Mark Wallner traded blows with Florida’s Duarte Vale and Nate Bonetto, a tiebreak followed neither side could gain the upper hand. The seven-point tiebreak saw much of the same until Vale and Boneto eventually won by a narrow 10-8 difference, giving Florida its 17th straight doubles point win.
While the Vols have found ways to rebound from dropping the doubles point in the past, it does cause a strong momentum swing in the match, and it proved too much for them Saturday. Tennessee is 18-2 when it wins the point and 4-5 when it loses the point.
In singles, No. 72 Hudd fell to No. 87 Vale 4-6, 3-6 followed by another straight sets loss by Martim Prata to No. 116 Josh Goodger in straight sets to give the Gators a 3-0 edge.
Monday then put the Vols on the board by taking down Riffice 6-4, 7-6(4) by way of a second-set comeback.
Despite taking the firsts set, Mitsui ran out of steam. He dropped 12 of the last 15 games in his 6-4, 2-6, 1-6 loss, giving Florida the win and sending them to the title game.
Tennessee was very much alive in the two remaining courts.
No. 7 Walton traded the first two sets with the nation’s top-ranked player Ben Shelton, taking the second set tiebreak 8-6. The match went unfinished at 4-6, 7-6(6), 2-1 with Walton leading in the third set. Angel Diaz was tied in his third set at 3-1 before Andrade’s clincher. A doubles point win by the Vols would have let these courts be played out to decide the match.
Despite the loss, the Vols still have the NCAA Tournament to look forward to and perhaps another shot at the Gators. Tennessee will wait to hear its seeding the the tournament at the selection show, scheduled for May 2 at 6 p.m. EST.