ORLANDO, Fla. – The UCF men's tennis team finished the shortened 2020 dual match season on a high note, climbing to No. 22 nationally, their highest ranking in program history and posting their best start since 2003.
"We had a great season up to the point of it being cancelled," said Director of Tennis John Roddick. "Our guys had some of the greatest wins in the history of UCF men's tennis and the first ever top 25 ranking. They put themselves in a position to host the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament and will likely have two All-Americans with Gabe and Juan Pablo. The whole team has a lot to be proud of and should be looking forward to taking care of unfinished business next year."
After facing four top 25 teams in their first five matches and posting a record of 2-3, the Black and Gold went on a tear, stringing together eight consecutive wins to end the season. The run included an upset of No. 20 Texas Tech and two other big Power 6 wins over Virginia and Illinois, all on the road. The win over Illinois was UCF's first win as a top 25 program.
The 10-3 start to the season matched the team's best start since the 2003 campaign, the year in which UCF won their first conference title in program history. The Knights were part of the A-Sun at the time and went on to win three straight titles. It was the fourth straight season that the Knights have achieved double digit wins.
The Knights entered the season receiving votes in the Oracle/ITA team rankings for the second straight season. They cracked into the top 25 for the first time in program history, climbing to No. 24 on Feb. 5. UCF achieved their program high once more as they earned their way to the No. 22 spot on March 10, the last release of the team rankings in 2020.
Gabriel Decamps and Juan Pablo Grassi Mazzuchi performed at an elite level all season long at the top spots in singles and doubles. Both achieved 9-4 records in singles play during the dual match season, with Decamps manning the top spot while Grassi Mazzuchi locked down the No. 2 position. Decamps had three wins over ranked opponents while Grassi Mazzuchi tallied four. The tandem combined to go 10-2 in doubles, moving from doubles No. 2 to No. 1 after six matches. The two went 17-5 in doubles over the course of the entire 2019-20 season and have compiled a 29-11 playing as a duo throughout their careers.
Decamps and Grassi Mazzuchi each picked up three American Athletic Concference Player of the Week honors, including one instance where they were named co-players of the week.
Mikhail Sokolovskiy had an impressive season at the No. 6 spot in singles, posting a mark of 8-1. Overall, he went 11-9 over the fall and spring. Sokolovskiy was coming off one of the winningest seasons in program history, as he posted 30 victories in the 2018-19 campaign. That mark was good enough to put him alone in third place on UCF's single season wins list.
Just behind Sokolovskiy in wins was Trey Hilderbrand and Alan Rubio, each posting seven singles victories. Hilderbrand saw most of his time at the No. 5 singles spot, recording a mark of 5-1. Rubio primarily played the No. 3 position, going 7-4. Bogdan Pavel picked up five wins this season, primarily at the No. 4 position.
Decamps and Grassi Mazzuchi were a staple in the rankings all season long. Decamps climbed as high as No. 7 in the Oracle/ITA rankings. Together, Decamps and Grassi Mazzuchi rose as high as No. 7 as a tandem, fitting right in with college tennis' elite. The two were ranked at No. 6 coming out of the tournament season. Grassi Mazzuchi was able to earn his way to a season best No. 59. Pavel was in the rankings for a brief time, checking in at No. 105.
UCF posted their fourth straight season with 10 or more victories, all under Roddick's tenure. It will go down as the fifth best season in terms of winning percentage (.769). The team earned three power six victories, defeating No. 20 Texas Tech as well as Virginia and Illinois with both of them receiving votes in the polls.
The Black and Gold picked up eight wins in a row, which was competing for a top five spot on the team's winning streak list. Two more wins would have put this season's streak in a tie for fifth. UCF's longest winning streak stands at 18, a mark achieved way back in 1977. This season, the Knights started their winning streak against Virginia and Illinois on the road. The Knights returned home to beat Florida foes FAU and Stetson before travelling to No. 20 Texas Tech and pulling off a remarkable comeback victory. The team beat Memphis on the road two days later before returning home to beat Penn and South Alabama.
The Knights finished the season with seven matches left on the schedule, two of them against ranked opponents. They were slated to play four more matches at home to finish out March, hosting North Florida, Arkansas, Nebraska and No. 24 Cornell. The campaign was set to finish on the road against a trio of American opponents, visiting No. 47 Tulane, Tulsa and South Florida.
Decamps and Grassi Mazzuchi had tremendous fall seasons prior to the start of the dual match campaign. They finished as runners-up at the ITA All-Americans and earned a bid to nationals. Decamps claimed the consolation singles championship at nationals after piecing together five straight wins. Grassi Mazzuchi earned runner up at the ITA Southeast Regionals, falling in a tight 6-4, 6-4 contest. Sokolovskiy and Pavel earned a runner up finish in doubles in the Bedford Cup as they were edged by an FSU tandem on their home courts.
RECORD BREAKERS & CHASERS
Decamps was on pace to have a record-breaking season, testing the single season wins list. His campaign came to an end with a record of 21-8 over the fall and the spring, which was three wins better than all of last season. Had he won eight more matches, he would have climbed into sole possession of fourth place on the singles season wins list.
Decamps and Grassi Mazzuchi are on track to become the winningest duo in program history. The two have already compiled 29 victories together and need to get to 46 to be the all-time leaders in career doubles victories as a tandem. Doug Baxter and Neil Barnard currently hold the record with 45 career wins as a pair, achieved from 1976-78.
Sokolovskiy continues to chip away at the career wins list, as he now sits in a tie of seventh place with 61 career victories. The all-time high is held by Brock Sakey, who compiled 85 wins from 2005-10. Decamps is slowly creeping up on the list, sitting with 48 career victories, just six wins away from a tie of tenth place.
There will be no final rankings release from the ITA, meaning the Knights wrap up their season as the No. 22 team in the country, the highest they've ever finished. Their wins over Pennsylvania and South Alabama were not factored into that ranking. In the latest release of the rankings, UCF was one of two American teams in the top 50, with Tulane sitting at No. 47. The Knights had a solid chance to earn the top seed for the conference tournament for the second straight season.
The ITA will administer an unpublished double run of the computerized rankings for the ITA Kickoff Weekend Draft which will include the wins against Penn and South Alabama. The rankings will use UCF's five best victories to determine their spot in the rankings. That new ranking will be used to seed teams ahead of the draft sometime in early June. The top 15 teams in the country have the privilege of hosting an ITA Kickoff Weekend site, 16 and below then get to choose where they want to go and what seed they want to be for 2021 ITA Kickoff Weekend.
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