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Men's Tennis Begins Road Swing at Stetson and Florida

by Alex Clough

ORLANDO – Seven wins and a vibrant commencement to the 2024 campaign rolls on for the UCF men’s tennis team, as it hits the road for the first time in a month, making short trips north for meetings with Stetson and Florida. The Knights (7-0) protected their home court in dominant fashion, sweeping a five-match homestand en route to the best start in program history to precede its second of four road trips this season.

Though the only way to look is forward as head coach Lloyd Bruce-Burgess and his squad travel to Deland on Saturday for a noon meeting with the Hatters (5-2), before continuing on I-75 to face the Gators (3-4) in a highly anticipated meeting Monday at noon in Gainesville.


Taking the mantle this past summer, Bruce-Burgess inherited a young squad with a hunger to prove themselves in one of the nation’s premier conferences. The early stages of the new era have been remarkable, with the English native becoming the first head coach in program history to begin his tenure 6-0, later improving to 7-0 to secure UCF its best start to a season since its establishment in 1971.

With captain and fifth-year Lleyton Cronje providing the insight and experiences that have been built up since his freshman season in 2019 at VCU, seven of the eight Knights who have played are all in the midst of their second collegiate seasons. The South African continues to tell his teammates to “believe,” a term that has long been used around sports but still rings true today.

Last time out, UCF battled back after an early 2-0 deficit against in-state foe Miami, who swept the Knights a season ago, to push the match to court three. Sophomore Francisco (Toto) Llanes, who continues to use his physicality to stay in matches, erased a first-set loss before taking the second, 6-1, and eventually clinching the match with a 6-4 triumph in set three.

The Knights are one of just two teams in the Big 12 to remain undefeated following the first month of action, joining No. 2 TCU (6-0) atop the conference standings.


  • The Knights are 32-4 in singles through their first seven contests, the best stretch to start a season in program history. Eight student-athletes currently have at least one win and none have had more than one defeat.
  • Five Knights have winning streaks of three or more matches, headlined by Santiago Giamichelle’s perfect 6-0 record to start the 2024 campaign. Others include Llanes (five), Paul Colin (four), Liam Branger (three) and Yassine Dlimi (three).
  • UCF has not dropped a singles contest on courts four or six thus far and has just one defeat on courts one, two, three, and five.
  • In the 32 singles triumphs, the Knights have taken 29 in straight sets. The three three-set bouts include Cronje’s victory over North Florida, Llanes’ match-clincher over Miami, and Branger’s season-opening win versus Coastal Carolina.
  • While the Knights were 3-8 in doubles through their first four matches, the squad has since found form, taking two of three points and accumulating a 4-2 record in the last three contests.


The Hatters and Knights, separated by just 40 miles, will meet for the first time since 2022 and for the 36th time in the program’s history. The first bout, an 8-1 UCF win in February of 1982, began a historic period of play between the two teams. Only South Florida (49) and FAU (41) have faced the Knights more in their 52-year history.

Stetson rides a four-match winning streak into Saturday’s matinee, headlined by a 5-2 triumph over USF in Tampa to begin the month. The lone common opponent thus far, FAU, swept the Hatters 7-0 before falling to the Knights in Orlando a week ago, 4-0.

Ervin Eminefendic, who lost to former Knight Bogdan Pavel in 2022, leads the team with a 2-2 record on court one.

Monday’s meeting with the Gators will mark the 23rd between the two programs and the eighth consecutive meeting dating back to 2018.

They will also enter the contest having dropped their past four contests, including a 4-3 defeat to No. 3 Texas in Austin last week. The Gators will be capping off their non-conference slate with the Knights before welcoming Texas A&M and LSU to the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex to begin March.

Two Gators rank among the top 125 in singles, including No. 82 Tanapatt Nirundorn and No. 89 Jeremy Jin, along with the 58th-ranked doubles tandem of Aidan Kim and Nate Bonetto. Nirundorn is the lone Gator to have played in 2023’s season-opener at the USTA National Campus.

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