FEATURE: The Story of Gator Tennis Alum Johannes Ingildsen – ESPN 98.1 FM

To celebrate International Education WeekWRUF is publishing profiles of UF student-athletes every week

Flashback to May 2019. The Florida Gators men’s tennis team was hungry and primed to win a national championship. Led by a senior hailing from Denmark, this group was favored in the polls, but they were beaten by the eventual national champion Texas Longhorns in the NCAA tournament semi-finals.

The loss stung the program greatly, as did having to wait a full two full years to return to get another chance after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the end of the 2020 season. But for Johannes Ingildsen, this was not the first time that adversity struck in his tennis career.

From Frederiksberg to Gainesville

Born in 1997, Ingildsen lived in his native Frederiksberg, Denmark his entire childhood. He knew from an early age that tennis was his passion.

Johannes Ingildsen playing tennis as a child in Denmark.

When he graduated from high school, he began to consider which route to pursue in terms of a tennis career. Ingildsen decided to bet on himself and play tennis overseas at the University of Florida.

Tennis is super competitive, you need a good team around you or you need to be insanely good,” Ingildsen said. “I didn’t have those two options back home, so I decided to go to college and learn and develop.”

The decision was not an easy one, as he would be leaving his native country and adapting to a completely new culture. Without visiting his future home, Ingildsen chose the University of Florida. He moved to Gainesville in 2016, and struggled to transition into American culture.

“It took me a long time to get going, speaking a different language was tough, meeting new friends, learning a new culture,” Ingildsen said. “I was missing home a lot at first, but eventually I started making friends and adapting to the culture.”

Coming Into His Own

It didn’t take long for Ingildsen to establish himself as an elite talent on the UF men’s tennis team. In 2017, he received All-SEC freshman team honors and won the All-American Doubles Championship with a fellow international Gator, Cuban Alfredo Perez.

Just as he intended when deciding to move to the United States, Ingildsen grew and developed in the years that followed. On the court, he was named second team all SEC in both 2018 and 2019.

Ingildsen had blossomed from someone who struggled to speak the native language, into a leader of one of the top tennis programs in the country. But there was still something missing that he and the team desired more than anything.

Chasing a Title

Two years had passed since UF lost to Texas in the 2019 semifinals. The sour taste of defeat lingered in each of the team members. Fueled by this defeat once again, the Gators dominated as they journeyed their way back to the semifinals, where they once again faced Texas. Ingildsen helped lead the Gators to a 4-0 sweep of the Lonhorns. Florida then defeated Baylor to bring home the first national championship in men’s tennis.

“The national championship was awesome, something I’ll never forget.” Ingildsen said. “Probably the most impressive thing I’ve done in my life.”

Where Is He Now?

After completing his fifth year and going out on top, Ingildsen knew there was an opportunity to play professionally. He decided to return home to Denmark to do so. He is doing that now as part of the ATP tour.

Ingildsen may have re-established in his home base in Denmark, but his name will forever be etched in the history books at UF. In addition to the 2021 national championship, he currently ranks second all-time in doubles wins at UF and is tied for seventh all-time in singles wins.

While tennis is his passion, Ingildsen is keeping his mind open as he has a master’s degree in international business. He may end up pursuing a career in that field, but for now, he is still chasing what he loves—what instigated his move to the US in the first place, tennis.

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