Men's Tennis Stays Perfect With 6-1 Victory Over Georgia Southern

by Alex Clough

ORLANDO – Four matches, four victories. The UCF men’s tennis team is off to its best start of the century, jumping out to 4-0 for the first time since 1999.

The Knights capped off its home-opening weekend slate with an emphatic 6-1 triumph over Georgia Southern Sunday afternoon at the USTA National Campus. UCF left no room for the Eagles to capitalize on their doubles point, taking all six courts in singles swiftly without dropping a set.

"The singles play was awesome today. In doubles, we saw an improvement from yesterday but still lost the point, though we bounced back really well and that's what I asked the guys to do. Everyone came out and stayed mentally tough."

Head coach Lloyd Bruce-Burgess

In doubles play, the 20th-ranked tandem of Lleyton Cronje and Santiago Giamichelle got back to winning ways in dominating fashion, breaking the opposition's serve early en route to the eventual 6-1 triumph, securing the duo their second win of the season. However, on courts two and three, the Knights couldn’t overcome early deficits, ultimately dropping their fourth-consecutive doubles point to start 2024.

Through four contests, the Knights have dropped just two courts in singles play, accumulating a 19-2 record. A season ago, UCF was 3-11 when losing the doubles point, a record that continues to be left in the past with the strong mentality the squad possesses. 

The first of six players to notch a win this afternoon was No. 95 Mehdi Benchakroun, who made quick work of Judson Blair, taking both sets, 6-1. The Moroccan is off to a flying start in his sophomore campaign, capitalizing on a strong fall with his best stretch of collegiate tennis to date.

Minutes later on court six, Liam Branger, making his second appearance of the season in singles, secured his second win with a 6-2, 6-2, performance over Laurent Julia Calac. Though the Frenchman has clinched seven matches in his two-year collegiate career, today he put the Knights up one with a composed outing to anchor UCF.

Sophomore Yassine Dlimi, who made two appearances on court one during his impressive first year in Orlando, secured his first victory leading the squad in singles with a 6-3, 6-3, win over Georgia Southern’s Aaron James Williams. Dlimi broke serve in a close first set before matching his performance with another strong display in the second, putting the Knights within reach of the match.

On court two, it was more of the same from captain and fifth-year Cronje, who bested Dimitris Paliouras in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4, to clinch the contest for UCF. The South African was brilliant throughout, going toe-to-toe with his Eagles counterpart to clinch the match for the Knights. Cronje is off to his best start in his collegiate career, having dropped just one set through his first four duals.

Similar to yesterday’s win over North Florida, UCF played out the remaining courts, giving Giamichelle and Francisco Llanes the chance to secure victories of their own. In line with the first four results, both took care of business in straight sets.

The UT Arlington transfer joins Cronje and Benchakorun in securing a 4-0 start, as he defeated Pol del Castillo on court four, 6-2, 6-3. The day would eventually be capped off with Llanes notching his second-consecutive win, besting Pierre Mouesca on court three, 7-5, 6-4.

Bruce-Burgess becomes just the second coach in program history to win each of his first four matches, an incredible feat as he ushers in a new era of UCF men’s tennis in the Big 12 conference. Each Knight who has featured in singles play has garnered a victory, with seven players in the win column early on to start the season.


UCF continues its five-match homestand at the USTA National Campus with its first meeting with FGCU since 2021. All-time, the Knights are a perfect 8-0 versus the Eagles, who will make the journey north for a noon matchup on Saturday, Jan. 27.