Men’s tennis ends tournament run early at ITA Midwest Regional

The Illinois men’s tennis team ended its run at this weekend’s ITA Midwest Regional in the round of 16.

“We are competing well, but for our guys to have that next breakthrough and become part of the elite players of the nation, we have to continue to examine what each of our guys is lacking that doesn’t allow them to be playing on that final day,” head coach Brad Dancer said.

Friday saw a string of Orange and Blue victories in singles and doubles at the tournament, held in Columbus, Ohio. Junior Stephen Hoh defeated Notre Dame’s Ryan Bandy, 6-2, 3-6, 6-4, while fellow junior Bruno Abdelnour picked up a quick win against Cleveland State’s Ali Shabib, 6-1, 6-2.

“Overall, Bruno and Stephen are playing well and seeing some great competition,” Dancer said. “They both have things to improve upon, but getting them to see action on the court is vital for all of our players.”

Freshmen Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon also saw action this weekend. Kopinski earned a victory against Pablo Olivarez of Western Michigan in a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 thriller. Guignon struggled in his first match, falling to No. 61 Ille Van Engelen of Ohio State.

The doubles squad of Guignon and Abdelnour earned an 8-4 victory over Michael Tebon and Paul Swanson of Wisconsin-Green Bay. The win marks Guignon’s first collegiate doubles victory. Hoh and Kopinski teamed up for a win over Western Michigan’s Shaun Bernstein and Marc Shideler, 8-0.

The Illini ended their run in the tournament Saturday. Abdelnour began the day losing his first set against No. 13-seeded Spencer Wolf of Northwestern, but would regain momentum and win the comeback victory, 4-6, 6-3, 7-5. Abdelnour soon fell to No. 28 Casey Watt of Notre Dame in the round of 16. Hoh also won his first match against Northern Illinois’ Axel Lagerlof, 6-4, 6-4, but lost in the round of 16 in a close match against No. 5 Chase Buchanan of Ohio State, 7-6, 6-4.

Both freshmen struggled early in their matches of the main draw. Kopinski fell to No. 2 Blaz Rola of Ohio State, and Guignon lost to Michael Moore of Notre Dame.

“Ross and Tim looked a little raw out there, but that’s to be expected. Our goal for them is to get them some more competition and just continue to get their feet wet as much as possible,” Dancer said of his new additions to the team. “We know that they can perform better than they have so far.”

The doubles team of Kopinski and Hoh picked up a victory against Vukasin Teofanovic and Logon Collins of Marquette, 8-4, before falling to fourth-seeded teammates Evan King and Shaun Bernstein of Michigan. Abelnour and Guignon dropped their first match to No. 33 Billy Bertha and Alexander Kostanov of Wisconsin.

The Illini will resume play in two weeks at the Big Ten Indoor Tournament, Oct. 28-31, in Iowa City, Iowa.

“Practicing is our key right now,” Dancer said. “We need a complete evaluation of everyone’s game, and I think that this competition during the fall is vital to see where we need to improve.”