The Florida men’s tennis team kicks off the 2013 dual season this weekend, hosting the University of Miami at noon at Linder Stadium at Ring Tennis Complex. After wrapping up individual play last weekend at the Three Oaks Shootout in Fort Myers, Florida turns its full attention to the upcoming dual season.
At the Three Oaks Shootout, the Gators compiled a 7-2 record in doubles and 15-6 mark in singles. The trio of Florent Diep, Stephane Piro and Gordon Watson went a combined 9-0 in singles, while Billy Federhofer and Watson teamed up to post a 3-0 record in doubles matches.
“We just had a great weekend [at the Three Oaks Shootout] to kind of start out our spring 2013 season,” said head coach Bryan Shelton on Monday. “It’s always interesting taking that break for Christmas and then coming back and jumping right back into it. I was happy to see how well we competed for our first weekend out on the road. There were some good things and we’re really looking forward to this coming week.
“We host Miami on Saturday at noon. Miami’s got a good strong squad, so we’re opening up with a really good match that’s going to test us early.”
This spring brings a lot of changes for the Gators, with a new coaching staff and several new players in the mix. Only four players that saw action in dual matches last season will be competing for Florida this spring, with three newcomers added to the mix and two more players forced to sit out.
“I still feel like we have a fairly young team,” said Coach Shelton. “Some of our upperclassmen haven’t been here that long. Florent Diep, who played probably the best of everyone on our team in the fall, this is only his second year here although he’s a junior. Stephane Piro, who is also a junior, was just competing for Florida for the first time this past weekend.
“Although we have some upperclassmen, we’re still fairly young and I feel like they’re still getting their feet wet a little bit. I expect us to get better as the season goes along. That’s always the goal in every match, you want to play better at the end than you do at the beginning, and it’s the same with the season.”
Seniors Billy Federhofer and Bob van Overbeek return, along with juniors Michael Alford and Florent Diep, to provide some much-needed experience for a squad that reached the NCAA Round of 16 in 2012 and finished ranked 12th in the final ITA poll. Entering the mix will be redshirt freshman Gordon Watson, who posted a 12-4 record in tournament play, and redshirt sophomore Stephane Piro, who was 3-0 in his first collegiate action over the weekend at the Three Oaks Shootout. True freshman Luke Johnson is the final player that is expected to contribute for the Gators this season. Junior Spencer Newman and sophomore Diego Hidalgo will not be eligible to play this spring but will practice with the team.
Florida will also be breaking in a new coaching staff this spring. Coach Shelton enters his first collegiate dual season at the helm of men’s program after a successful 13 seasons as the head women’s coach at Georgia Tech, winning a national title with the Yellow Jackets in 2007. Assistant Amer Delic joins the Gators after playing for nine years on the professional circuit and volunteer assistant Scott Perelman comes to UF after coaching stints at six previous schools, most recently North Carolina.
“It’s been a lot of fun,” said Shelton. “I’ve enjoyed the transition [from the women’s game to men’s]. I think the biggest thing for me has been trying to develop my program here at the University of Florida. When you’re developing a program, it’s more than just helping the guys on their forehand and their backhand and their serve. It’s really trying to instill good habits, and doing things the right way, and getting the guys to really buy into what we’re doing.”
With the season beginning this weekend, here’s a quick introduction to Coach Shelton. Coming on Thursday, we’ll give a quick preview of all seven players who will compete in the dual season for the Gators.