Orlando, Fla. – The No. 36 Florida State men’s tennis team (10-4, 0-1 ACC) defeated archrival No. 15/11 Florida Gators (8-6, 1-1 SEC) by the score of 4-2 on Friday in front of a record crowd of 1,756 at the USTA National Campus at Lake Nona in Orlando, Fla.
With the match tied at 2-2 and the remaining courts in third sets, freshman Rana-Roop Singh Bhullar and redshirt junior Jose Gracia each pulled out third set victories to claim the 4-2 win, the Seminoles’ first over the Florida Gators in ten years.
With Florida State leading 3-2 following Bhullar’s 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win over Florida’s Jordan Belga, Gracia led 6-5 in the third set on court four. He won every point leading up to a serve for match point, and as Florida’s Johannes Ingildsen sent the return into the net, clinched the 4-2 victory for the Seminoles.
“Rana and (junior Terrance Whitehurst) were fighting down set points and that gave me motivation to come back and to keep on fighting,” Gracia said. “I realized my opponent getting nervous and tight- I used the crowd and played loose- I had a lot of fun and enjoyed the crowd. Most of them were against us but we enjoyed it and came out with a win.”
In front of one of the largest crowds ever for a regular season college tennis match, many of whom were cheering on the blue and orange, the Seminoles jumped out to a 1-0 lead after taking the doubles point with strong wins on courts two and three.
“I think the key part of the match was when Terrance and Terrell were down 2-5 in doubles,” head coach Dwayne Hultquist said. “I like how all three teams played and battled. I thought getting the doubles point was very important.”
The No. 77-ranked doubles pair of redshirt juniors Lucas Poullain and Jose Gracia took down Maxx Lipman/Elliott Orkin 6-3, while juniors Terrance Whitehurst and Terrell Whitehurst took court three 7-5 over Joshua Wardell/Chase Perez-Blanco.
“I felt like it was a battle from the whole team, attitude was great,” head coach Dwayne Hultquist said. “Atmosphere was electric as the largest-attended match this year. It really showed what the USTA is doing with College MatchDay to promote the event. Bigger days are ahead for college tennis.”
The Noles took that momentum and took the first sets on courts one, five and six.
Poullain experienced a rare loss on court three as Chase Perez-Blanco won 6-3, 6-3 to tie the match for the Gators.
No. 119 sophomore Aziz Dougaz showed a powerful forehand and a great backhand against No. 10 Alfredo Perez, and took him down on court one 6-4, 6-3 to put the Seminoles ahead 2-1.
No. 95 junior Guy Iradukunda played a very tight first set vs. No. 79 Elliott Orkin, but fell in the tiebreak 7-6(3). Orkin took advantage and took the second set 6-2 to tie the match at 2-2.
Courts four through six each forced third sets, and playing alongside their teammates in the clutched proved to be the deciding factor as Bhullar and Gracia were able to grit out the victory for the Seminoles.
“We kept on pushing each other and wanted the best out of all of us,” Gracia said. “(The win) will help a lot with recruiting and show that we are so close to beating other teams- this is going to send a message to the upcoming teams that we play.”
“I think this environment far surpasses playing a home and away,” Hultquist said. “This is good for both programs, college tennis, and I see it as a positive thing that I hope we can continue playing here.”
About College Matchday:
College MatchDay is a showcase series of “bowl games” for college tennis, launched by the USTA to spotlight many of the country’s top programs and players. College MatchDay’s goal is to provide more fans the opportunity to see the excitement of college tennis team matches, both in person and at home.
About USTA National Campus:
The USTA National Campus is one of the largest tennis facilities in the world. It is located on 64 acres and divided into dedicated areas that will focus on the complete tennis pathway.
The cutting-edge center features a total of 100 courts (32 Plexicusion hard courts, 32 Har-Tru green clay courts, 16 Sport Courts, 8 DecoTurf acrylic cushion courts, 6 European Terre Davis red clay and 6 ReBound Ace indoor courts) along with two stadium courts.
For more information on Florida State tennis, check out:
NO. 36 FLORIDA STATE 4, NO. 15/11 FLORIDA 2
1. #119 Aziz Dougaz (FS) def. #10 Alfredo Perez (VIS) 6-4, 6-3
2. #79 Elliott Orkin (VIS) def. #95 Guy Iradukunda (FS) 7-6 (7-3), 6-2
3. Chase Perez-Blanco (VIS) def. Lucas Poullain (FS) 6-3, 6-3
4. Jose Gracia (FS) def. Johannes Ingildsen (VIS) 3-6, 7-5, 7-5
5. Terrance Whitehurst (FS) vs. Maxx Lipman (VIS) 6-4, 3-6, 4-3, unfinished
6. Rana Roop Bhullar (FS) def. Jordan Belga (VIS) 6-4, 3-6, 6-4
1. #69 Guy Iradukunda/Aziz Dougaz (FS) vs. #4 Alfredo Perez/Johannes Ingildsen (VIS) 5-4, unfinished
2. #77 Lucas Poullain/Jose Gracia (FS) def. Maxx Lipman/Elliott Orkin (VIS) 6-3
3. Terrance Whitehurst/Terrell Whitehurst (FS) def. Chase Perez-Blanco/Joshua Wardell (VIS) 7-5
Florida 8-6 (1-1 SEC); National ranking #15
Florida State 10-4 (0-1 ACC); National ranking #36
Order of finish: Doubles (2,3); Singles (3,1,2,6,4)
USTA National Campus at Lake Nona