There are countless reasons why the No. 2 Florida men’s tennis team could be feeling the weight of expectations heading into its NCAA Sweet 16 matchup Friday.
This season, the defending national champions have consistently fended off the opposition’s best effort, and now the Gators (25-2) host No. 15 North Carolina at 5 p.m. at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex in the Gainesville Super Regional.
UNC (18-8) has won eight of its previous 10 matches heading into Friday’s contest, with the two losses coming in the ACC Tournament championship to a pair of top-10 teams in No. 7 Virginia, 4-3, and No. 8 Wake Forest, 4-1.
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Photos: Florida Gators tennis teams against Florida State at College MatchDay in Orlando
The Gators, with five players ranked in singles and three teams placed in the doubles rankings and 12-0 at home this season, are accustomed to playing under pressure and against upset-minded programs.
Head coach Bryan Shelton’s approach is to ensure each competitor isn’t negatively affected by the thought of what awaits.
“He doesn’t make it clear to us that it’s postseason, that it’s time, but he does remind each of us individually, and he comes and talks to us each individually, and he wants all 10 guys to be in a good and happy place,” fifth-year senior Andy Andrade said. “Anytime he sees us struggling in practice, he does a really good job with that.”
Tennis a family affair for Andy Andrade
It’s not as if Andrade, who holds the program-record in singles wins with 133, needs any additional coaching at this point.
Andrade is surrounded by tennis coaches, from his father, Aurelio, who coached him from an early age, to his 28-year-old older brother, Pedro. Aurelio Andrade coached at the highly regarded IMG Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton from 2008 until 2016, while Pedro is currently coaching in the New York area.
In the early stages of his son’s UF career, Aurelio Andrade would often reach out to Shelton regarding Andy’s continued development.
“In the beginning when I was younger, my freshman year, he was talking more to coach Shelton,” Andy Andrade said. “But, I mean, as I grew up, I kind of wanted to have them not talk as much so they …….