URBANA, Ill. – The No. 24 UCF men's tennis team earned a hard fought victory over the Illinois Illini on Sunday afternoon, winning 4-3 with the match coming down to the final court. It's the second straight victory for the Knights over a "Power 6" opponent.
The nation's No. 7 duo of Gabriel Decamps and Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi came flying out of the gates to start the doubles segment, pulling out to a big lead early. They never looked back, defeating Siphosothando Montsi and Gui Gomes by a count of 6-2 to take the early edge in the segment. Illinois claimed court one as No. 43 Alex Brown and Aleks Kovacevic narrowly beat Bogdan Pavel and Trey Hilderbrand 7-6 (7-2). The doubles point came down to court three where JanMagnus Johnson and Alan Rubio were neck in neck for the entirety of their match. Johnson and Rubio earned a late break and went on to top Lucas Horve and Vuk Budic to secure the doubles point for UCF.
The Knights came out strong in singles play, winning five first sets across the six courts. Illinois pushed back in the second stanza of things, winning all six sets. That led to Illinois taking court three where No. 42 Montsi defeated No. 105 Pavel 7-5, 6-2 to even the match at 1-1. That was the only match to finish in straight sets.
UCF picked up their first singles point on court two where No. 72 Grassi Mazzuchi earned his second straight victory over a ranked opponent, topping No. 78 Kovacevic in a back and forth contest 6-2, 4-6, 6-3. Illinois came right back with another win in singles on court four as No. 91 Zeke Clark defeated Rubio 1-6, 6-3, 6-0.
The Black and Gold pulled within one of the clincher as Hilderbrand picked up a hard fought win on court five. He went on to topple Alex Bancila 6-4, 5-7, 6-2 to improve to 2-0 at the No. 5 singles spot in the lineup.
Illinois didn't go away quietly as a tight contest went to the Illini on court one. No. 7 Decamps went down to the wire with No. 18 Brown who took a 6-7 (4-7), 7-5, 6-4 decision.
The fate of the match rested on court six where Mikhail Sokolovskiy was battling Horve. After a tight first set victory by Sokolovskiy, Horve took the second set in a tiebreaker, forcing the third frame to decide the entirety of the match. The two traded the first four games before Sokolovskiy held serve to pull to a 3-2 edge. He went on to break Horve in the next game and never looked back, winning 7-5, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2. Sokolovskiy is out to a 4-0 start in his 2020 dual match season.
The Knights now have two straight victories over "Power 6" teams. This was just the second time that UCF has faced Illinois and the first win over the Illini in program history. The Black and Gold also secured their first win over Virginia in their other Power 6 win this year. Both opposing teams were ranked inside the Oracle/ITA team rankings to begin the dual match season and are now currently receiving votes. The win also represents UCF's first win as a top 25 program.
UCF will have 19 straight days without a match. They'll return home to face FAU on Feb. 29 at 2 p.m. and Stetson on Mar. 1 at 11 a.m.
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