NCAA Womens Tennis

Gators’ Gailis Has Game and Fresh Mindset to Match

Gailis, Rachel and Thornqvist, Roland (2023 regular season)

GAINESVILLE, Fla. — Rachel Gailis has 22 singles wins in her first season with the Gators, including 10 consecutive entering Friday afternoon’s NCAA Tournament match at No. 1-seed North Carolina.

Yet, the most telling part of a conversation with Gailis about her first season at UF centers on a loss. Like many of her ilk, Gailis doesn’t speak in gushy tones about the win streak or how it has boosted her confidence and made life more enjoyable. Oh, no. Get that chatter out of here.

A defeat sent Gailis, one of the county’s elite recruits in the 2022 class, into a darkness that she perhaps didn’t know even existed.

“I got to a really bad place,” she said. “I was losing matches I shouldn’t be losing, and I also didn’t play my game. I was super tentative, super negative.”

“She got wounded a little, losing that match,” Gators head coach Roland Thornqvist said. “You could tell that she took it really personally. It affected her mood in training for a while. We had to work hard to get that to change.”

The loss of record was a No. 3 singles match against Kentucky’s Carlota Molina on March 19. Gailis lost the first set and won the second but eventually fell 3-6, 6-1, 3-6.

The defeat stung, but to Gailis, it was as if a swarm had attacked instead of a rogue bumble bee.

“It was probably the hardest loss of my career,” she said. “As a team, that was the first time I got clinched on. After that, I was pretty negative.”

Failure has not been a regular visitor in Gailis’ life. She got into tennis when she was 5 because her older brother played. She pestered the instructor to let her take a shot at one of her brother’s practices.

She did, and her brother soon quit the game. Meanwhile, Gailis was a young standout on the rise.

“I hit the first one over the net,” she said. “Everyone went crazy. I thought I was the best tennis player in the world.” 

Gators coach Roland Thornqvist talks with freshman Rachel Gailis during a match earlier this season at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex. (Photo: Matt Pendleton/UAA Communications)

Gailis fell for the game, which became her life in many ways. She grew up home-schooled and practiced under the watchful eye of her coaches and father, Alex Gailis, who sat in the stands Saturday above Court 4 at the Alfred A. Ring Tennis Complex.

In Florida’s 4-1 win over Georgia Tech to advance to the NCAA Super Regional Round, Gailis dropped the first set to Alejandra Cruz as Thornqvist sat on a bench by the court. Thornqvist sensed…

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