Men's Tennis Tops Miami, 4-3, to Achieve Best Start in Program History

by Alex Clough

ORLANDO – With more than 1,110 matches and 52 years preceding this 2024 squad, first-year head coach Lloyd Bruce-Burgess and the Knights have achieved a historical start to their first season in the Big 12.

With the Knights faithful in full force, the UCF men’s tennis team defeated Miami Sunday afternoon at the USTA National Campus in dramatic fashion, taking the match 4-3 following a resounding effort in singles. Toto Llanes’ third set match-clincher secured the Knights their first 7-0 start in program history, a remarkable feat for the team.

I'm really happy with the win, being 7-0 and making history to start a job is great. I'm proud of the guys, Kareem, and the entire supporting staff, they make this possible.

Lloyd Bruce-Burgess

The Bruce-Burgess era is off to a flying start as the English native stands alone as the only head coach in program history to begin his tenure 7-0. A high-energy and physical style of play that he instilled in the fall is paying dividends, as the squad is firing on all cylinders.

Arguably the Knights' toughest test of the season thus far, Miami was able to grab the early advantage in doubles. The Hurricanes tandem of Nacho Serra Sanchez and Sam Baumgartner bested Liam Branger and Lleyton Cronje on court two, 6-4, giving UCF a tough task in singles to bounce back.

In line with the squad’s vibrant start, the Knights rose to the occasion with a dominating and composed display throughout, leveling the match at two-all before the eventual three-set thriller.

No. 100 Lleyton Cronje suffered his first defeat of the season on court two following a 6-4, 6-4, result against Miami’s Martin Katz. The 2-0 deficit was swiftly erased though as minutes later, Yassine Dlimi and Santiago Gimaichelle leveled the contest.

Dlimi has found form on court one, taking his third consecutive match in straight sets, battling back in the first and carrying the momentum into the second to win, 7-5, 6-2. Giamichelle continues to be a reliable force for the Knights on the back three, as he remained undefeated with a brilliant 6-3, 6-3, performance against Miami’s Adrien Burdet.

On court six, Paul Colin slotted back in and shined once again. The St. Barths native dominated the first-set tiebreak, 7-2, before a strong 6-3 showing in the second. The Knights' lead was short-lived lived though, as No. 120 Mehdi Benchakroun was defeated for the first time this season on court five, dropping his contest versus Nacho Serra Sanchez, 6-4, 6-4.

All eyes went to court three as Llanes, who battled back with a 6-1 second-set triumph after dropping the first, was in the driver’s seat in the third. The Uruguayan prevailed, defeating Antonio Prat 6-4 before he was immediately crowded by teammates and later drenched in water, a moment that has defined the 2024 campaign.

UCF will look to continue its exceptional start as it hits the road for a two-match stretch against Florida foes, traveling north to Stetson on Feb. 16 before continuing its journey for a highly-anticipated meeting with Florida the next day.