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Everything You Need To Know About the 2023 UCF Men’s Tennis Team

A young Knights squad seeks redemption after its first losing season in a decade

Courtesy of UCF Athletics

The UCF Knights Men’s Tennis team had a hard fall from its 2021 AAC Championship season in 2022, with the team having its first losing season since 2012. Now, the Knights look to rebound with a predominantly younger roster.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Knights as they start their 2023 season:

How Dual-Match Tennis Works

The dual match begins with Doubles Play, in which there are three matches played between a pair of players from each team. Whichever school wins 2 out of the 3 Doubles matches gets 1 point.

After Doubles Play, six Singles Play matches are played between members of each school worth 1 point each.

The school with the most points after all the matches are played is the victor. However, it is not uncommon that the dual-match will end early once one team gets 4 points since it becomes mathematically impossible for the other team to come back.

Last Season

8-15 (2-3 AAC)

Postseason: Lost in 1st Round of AAC Tournament

The Knights tried to keep going after losing Gabe Decamps and Mikhail Sokolovskiy but got off to a rough start by winning only one of their first nine matches, which included shutouts to three Top 25 programs (NC State, Ohio State, and Texas).

While the Knights were able to get a statement win over No. 37-ranked Arkansas, the rest of the Knights’ wins would come against unranked FGCU, North Florida, and Stetson, No. 67 FAU, Bo. 58 Tulane, and No. 40 Tulsa.

UCF finished the season with back-to-back losses to South Florida.

This Season

The Knights have a chance to get the last laugh on South Florida (at least as a conference mate), with 2023 being the Knights’ final season in the American Athletic Conference.

No team from The American ended up in the ITA’s Preseason Top 25 rankings. Though, Wichita State will be trotting out sophomore Kristof Minarik, who competed in the ITA Fall National Championship tournament back in November.

Who’s in Charge

John Roddick - 7th season at UCF

Courtesy of UCF Athletics

John Roddick is now at the point of his UCF tenure, as he enters his seventh season, where he is becoming one of the longest-serving head coaches in the program’s history. Completing the 2023 season will tie him with Gail Falkenberg (1992-1998) as the second-longest serving head coach in Knights history, only coming in behind his predecessor, Bobby Cashman (2000-2016).

The 2021 AAC Coach of the Year is 18 wins away from getting his 100th victory as a UCF head coach, which would make him the 4th to do so in the program’s history, joining the aforementioned Wood, Falkenberg, and Cashman.

John Roddick’s UCF Career

Year Overall Conference AAC Tournament NCAA Team Tournament
Year Overall Conference AAC Tournament NCAA Team Tournament
2017 16-7 1-2 Lost AAC Final (USF) Lost 1st Round (Louisville)
2018 11-10 1-2 Lost AAC Semi (Tulane) -
2019 15-11 3-0 Lost AAC Final (USF) Lost 1st Round (Florida St.)
2020 10-3 1-0 No Chamionship (COVID) Canceled (COVID)
2021 22-4 7-0 Won AAC Tournament Lost 2nd Round (Mississippi State)
2022 8-15 2-3 Lost AAC Quarter (USF) -
Total 82-50 15-7 1 Title 3 Appearences

Watch our team preview video with Coach Roddick here:

Players to Watch

Lleyton Cronje and Bogdan Pavel

As the only two upperclassmen on the squad, seniors Lleyton Cronje and Bogdan Pavel will be charged with leading this youth-dominated Knights team into the 2023 season.

The duo teamed up in doubles play for the first time last season, after Cronje transferred in from VCU. The duo finished 2022 as AAC All-Conference Doubles Players and ranked No. 53 in the ITA’s final Doubles-Pair rankings. This dual-match season, the ITA’s Preseason rankings have them at No. 28.

In singles play, Cronje took up the majority of matches in the No. 1 slot for the Knights last season, going 7-6 in those matches. Overall, Cronje went 10-10 in singles play.

Pavel, who normally competed in the No. 2 or No. 3 slot, went 10-9 overall in singles play last season.

Who We’ll Miss

Trey Hilderbrand

A native of San Antonio, Texas, Trey Hilderbrand transferred to Texas A&M for his final year of eligibility, alongside fellow former Knight JC Roddick.

Last season, he finished season ranked No. 76 in the ITA’s Singles Player rankings and No. 58 in the Doubles Pair rankings with Bogdan Pavel. He was also named to the AAC’s All-Conference team for both singles and doubles play.

Hilderbrand’s crowning achievement in singles play was when he became the 2020 ITA Fall National Champion. However, most of his success in his UCF career came in doubles play, where he and Pavel were both ITA Doubles All-Americans in 2021. They were also ranked in the Top 5 of the ITA’s Doubles-Pair rankings in both 2019 and 2021.

Who’s New That’s Good

Mehdi Benchakroun

Mehdi Benchakroun, a Moroccan native, got his UCF career underway this fall, where he went 5-1 in singles play. That one loss came against a No. 73-ranked Trent Bryde of Georgia.

In addition to playing for the Knights, Benchakroun also represented his country this past fall in the 2022 Davis Cup (think World Cup for Tennis), where his victory over the Ivory Coast’s Abdoul Aziz Bationo (6-2, 6-3) helped Morocco take 1st place in its African group round-robin tournament.

Roddick described Benchakroun as a physical player and a “really tough out.”

“He’ll drive guys crazy,” Roddick said. “Those are the kinds of players that you don’t like playing.”

Roster Breakdown

  • 7 Freshman
  • 2 Sophomores
  • 0 Juniors
  • 2 Seniors
  • 1 Floridian
  • 9 International Players (Morocco, Spain, France, South Africa, Australia, Romania, and Uruguay)

UCF 2023 Men’s Tennis Roster

Name Year Hometown 2022 School 2022 Stats
Name Year Hometown 2022 School 2022 Stats
Mehdi Benchakroun Fr. Rabat, Morocco Lycée André Malraux N/A
Liam Branger Fr. Bordeaux, France University of Bordeaux N/A
Paul Colin Fr. St. Barts, France TBD N/A
Lleyton Cronje Sr. Pretoria, South Africa UCF Singles: 10-10, Doubles: 11-8
Yassine Dlimi Fr. Casablanca, Morocco Edmuntum System Academy N/A
Luca Hotze Fr. Miami Shores, FL North Miami Beach Academy N/A
Francisco Llanes Fr. Paysandú, Uruguay ADK Tennis N/A
Bogdan Pavel Sr. Pitesti, Romania UCF Singles: 10-9, Doubles: 13-5
Emilio Sanchez Fr. Barcelona, Spain Emilio Sanchez Academy N/A
Quinn Snyder R-So. Delran, NJ UCF Singles: 2-6, Doubles: 0-6
Cooper White So. Melbourne, Australia UCF SIngles: 0-6, Doubles: 9-10

Schedule Breakdown

The Knights will not be at or away from their home at the USTA National Campus in Lake Nona for as long as they were last season.

Unlike 2022, which had the Knights on one month-long road trip and one month-long home stand, 2023 will not have a home stand longer than 11 days (Mar. 15-24) or a road trip longer than a few weeks (Jan. 28-Feb. 17).

The young Knights will have home-court advantage in a particular pair of matches in March that will see them host No. 2 Ohio State and No. 8 Texas within three days of each other.

2023 UCF Men’s Tennis Schedule

Date Day H/A Time Opponent Preseason ITA Ranking UCF's Results LY 2022 record Last Season
Date Day H/A Time Opponent Preseason ITA Ranking UCF's Results LY 2022 record Last Season
Saturday Jan. 21 Home 5 p.m. Florida 13 Lost, 7-0 26-3 Lost NCAA Quarterfinal to Virginia
Sunday Jan. 22 Home 2 p.m. Georgia Southern - - 7-11 Lost in 1st Round of SBC Championship
Saturday Jan. 28 Away TBA Ohio State 2 Lost, 4-0 28-4 Lost NCAA Semifinal to Kentucky
Sunday Jan. 29 Away TBA Tulsa OR Oregon - - N/A N/A
Friday Feb. 10 Away 6 p.m. Illinois - Lost, 4-3 14-14 Lost in 2nd Round of Big Ten Tournament
Sunday Feb. 12 Away 12 p.m. Nebraska - Lost, 4-3 9-15 Lost in 1st Round of Big Ten Tournament
Friday Feb. 17 Away 5 p.m. Miami (FL) - - 17-10 Lost in NCAA 1st Round to Florida
Friday Feb. 24 Home 2 p.m. North Florida - Won, 4-1 16-8 Lost in ASUN Tournament 2nd Round to FGCU
Saturday Feb. 25 Home 5 p.m. Florida State 16 Lost, 4-3 18-11 Lost in NCAA 3rd Round to Tennessee
Friday Mar. 3 Away 1 p.m. Florida Atlantic - Won, 4-1 18-6 Lost in CUSA 2nd round to Charlotte
Friday Mar. 10 Away 5 p.m. Oklahoma State - - 12-12 Lost in Big 12 Tournament 1st Round to Texas
Sunday Mar. 12 Away 12 p.m. SMU RV Lost, 4-3 22-7 Lost in NCAA 1st Round to LSU
Wednesday Mar. 15 Home 5 p.m. Ohio State 2 Lost, 4-0 28-4 Lost in NCAA Semifinals to Kentucky
Saturday Mar. 18 Home 12 p.m. Texas 9 Lost, 4-0 18-11 Lost in NCAA Sweet 16 to Michigan
Wednesday Mar. 22 Home 5 p.m. Arkansas - Won, 4-1 15-14 Lost in SEC Tournament 2nd Round to Kentucky
Friday Mar. 24 Home 5 p.m. Wichita State - - 12-14 Lost in AAC Tournament 1st Round to Memphis
Sunday Apr. 2 Away 12 p.m. Memphis - Lost, 4-2 16-8 Lost in NCAA 1st Round to Duke
Wednesday Apr. 5 Home 5 p.m. Tulane - Won, 6-1 7-15 Lost in AAC Tournament 1st Round to Tulsa
Friday Apr. 7 Away 2 p.m. South Florida - Lost, 4-3 (Twice) 14-11 Lost in NCAA 1st Round to Miami (FL)
Sunday Apr. 16 Home 12 p.m. Tulsa - Won, 4-1 15-12 Lost in NCAA 1st Round to Texas A&M

American Athletic Conference Tournament

  • Hosted by USTA National Campus (UCF’s Home Court)
  • Quarterfinals: April 21st
  • Semifinals: April 22nd
  • Finals: April 23rd

The Last Time...

UCF won The American Athletic Conference Tournament: 2021. It was the first time the Knights won a conference tournament since the three-peat of 2003-05.

UCF had back-to-back losing seasons: 2011-2012. John Roddick’s first season with the Knights in 2017 helped the program not have back-to-back losing seasons in 2016-17. Now, he will have to work with a majority-freshman team to prevent the program from having its first back-to-back losing seasons in a decade.

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