April 4, 2003
GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Tennessee's men's tennis team fell to the No. 2-ranked Florida Gators 6-1 Friday at UF's Ring Tennis Complex. The loss evened Tennessee's record at 9-9, including a 2-7 mark against Southeastern Conference opponents. Florida, meanwhile, improved to 18-3 (9-0 SEC).
Tennessee's Simon Rea played valiantly in his team's losing effort. Rea recorded his second-straight upset singles victory, and prevented the Florida sweep. It was his 100th career singles match as a Vol.
"Once again we won high in the playing order, at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles," Tennessee head coach Michael Fancutt said. "But once again our lack of depth let us down. Florida is obviously a good team; they're ranked No. 2 in the country. They hadn't beaten us in four years so they were pretty fired-up for today's match."
Florida captured doubles wins at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions to claim the doubles point and give the Gators a 1-0 match lead. But despite the Gators' trio of ranked doubles tandems, the Vol netters managed to avoid the always-unpleasant doubles sweep, as Mark Dietrich and Wade Orr upset the No. 12-ranked Gator pairing of Chris McDonald and Hamid Mirzadeh by a score of 9-8 at the No. 1 spot. The victory snapped a two-match SEC losing streak for the No. 57-ranked Vol tandem.
Florida dominated the singles portion of the match, as the Gators reeled-off five consecutive wins at the Nos. 2 through 6 positions. Senior Matt Behrmann clinched the victory for Florida by defeating Tennessee's Mark Henderson at the No. 5 spot.
The most competitive match of the day came at No. 1 singles, where Tennessee's Rea battled No. 28-ranked Hamid Mirzadeh. Rea, ranked No. 33 in the country and playing brilliant tennis as of late, won the first set by a score of 6-3. The New Zealand native then saw the feisty Florida sophomore rally to take the second set in a tiebreaker. In the third set, Rea took advantage of an early service break and cruised to victory.
"We had another great win from Simon Rea today," Fancutt said. "Simon has followed in the footsteps of (former Vols) Peter Handoyo and Mario Toledo as one of the most dominating players in the country."
Rea has been Tennessee's most reliable player this season, and has emerged as a leader for his young team. With a team-best 24-7 singles record, including a 7-4 mark against ranked opponents, he is an obvious candidate for All-SEC first-team consideration. Rea's singles prowess could also earn him a top-10 spot on Tennessee's all-time single-season winning-percentage list. His current 2003 singles winning-percentage stands at 77.4 percent, which also leads the team.
Florida's win Friday ensured the Gators at least a share of the SEC regular-season title. Head coach Andy Jackson's team can win the title outright with a victory over No. 18 Georgia Sunday.
Tennessee faces No. 20 South Carolina at the Sam Daniel Tennis Center in Columbia, S.C., Sunday at 1 p.m. The Gamecocks (14-4, 3-4 SEC) are undefeated at their home facility this season. Senior Seth Rose is South Carolina's highest-ranked singles player at No. 67 in the nation, while junior Carl Wermee is ranked No. 116.