by Chris Skewes, Staff Writer

Coming into the spring season, the UWF men’s tennis team had high expectations from everybody in the community. Fast forward approximately two months later and the team has kept their reputation intact.

 Initially ranked No. 8 in the Division II national rankings, the men’s tennis team (10-4, 5-0 GSC) started their season on a high note by winning their first six matches. Moreover, the Argos would win these first six matches by blowing out the competition, winning by more than three matches than their opponents on average.  

However, on March 9, UWF would fall to No. 16 Hawaii Pacific University (10-2, 4-0 PWC) for their first loss of the season. In a game where all of the single matches but one went to three sets, West Florida would put up a formidable fight but ultimately lose in the end.

And that wouldn’t be the end of the seasonal struggles the team has faced. After winning two games after that initial loss, the Argos would then go on a three-match losing streak against ranked opponents No. 24 Cameron University, No 17. Midwestern State University and No. 2 Columbus State.

But now the team is back on track and has won their last two games. The men’s tennis team has also managed to stay undefeated in conference play under Coach Derrick Racine and his star-studded cast of players.

Now in his 18th season as the men’s and women’s tennis coach, Racine and his athletes look to finish the season, business as usual. Under Racine’s leadership, UWF has finished every season since 2002 ranked as one of the top 10 teams in the nation.

The men’s team has also gone 111-9 (.925) over the past four seasons and has won three national championships as well.

“Coach (Racine) understands the athletes and understands what we go through,” UWF Tennis player Serdar Bojadjiev said. “He knows what he’s doing and shows up everyday giving 110 percent.”

Out of a roster of 12 athletes, all but one trace their roots outside of the U.S. Nine players come from South America by ways of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Chile and Columbia. The final two players are from France and Sweden.

“It’s a global world in tennis, so I think it benefits the American kids on the team,” Racine said. “We have a lot of international players here that add a lot of flavor to the team and to the school as a whole.”

Ranked as the 12th best player in single matches, Bojadjiev has been the anchor that the team has called on time after time. Named the 2017 GSC Freshman of the Year and the 2018 GSC Player of the Year, Bojadjiev has already cemented his legacy in UWF tennis and looks to ever-improve his game.

“He was on our national championship team in 2017 as a freshman, so he knows what it takes to win a national title,” Racine said. “Since then he’s had to fill in as a leading role and had to step up in that role. He never has an easy match, so every day he has to show up and play and play hard, and I think that’s been good for him and the other guys.”

The next match for the men’s tennis team will be against the Montevallo Falcons Thursday at the Ralph “Skeeter” Carson Tennis Complex at UWF.

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