Illinois men’s tennis loses final match of Texas trip

By Christopher Kennedy

The Illinois men’s tennis team fell short of completing an undefeated “March Through Texas” trip, as Texas Christian University swept the Illini 4-0 on Monday. The No. 17-ranked Horned Frogs made short work of the No. 4 Illini. TCU took control of the match from the doubles point and never looked back, securing three singles victories in straight sets. 

It was a disappointing end of the weekend for the Illini, who suffered only their third loss of the year after two big wins against No. 8 Texas on Saturday and No. 9 Texas A&M on Sunday.

“I give TCU all the credit,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “They came out and beat us today and beat us in spots where we’ve been successful.”

While TCU came into Monday on a five-match losing streak against ranked teams, it picked up its second top-10 win of the season. A TCU press release called the match the biggest win for TCU in head coach David Roditi’s five-year tenure. The Horned Frogs controlled the match wire-to-wire.

The Illini’s revamped doubles teams couldn’t stop two nationally ranked duos from TCU. No. 29 Nick Chappell and Will Stein took down Jared Hiltzik and Tim Kopinski 6-3 on Court 1. No. 23 Trevor Johnson and Cameron Norrie only lost one game to Blake Bazarnik and Brian Page in a 6-1 victory.

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    “We dug some big holes early on in the doubles,” Dancer said. “We’ll look at our prematch warm-up and what we can do better in that.”

    While the Illini freshmen have been an essential component of the team’s success, it was a TCU freshman who scored one of the most impressive singles victories of the day. No. 116 Guillermo Nunez defeated the Illini’s No. 32 Kopinski in straight sets, 6-2, 6-0. It was quite the showing from a freshman playing No. 2 singles for the first time all season. For Kopinski, it’s only his third singles loss of the spring.

    Two TCU seniors ended the match for the Horned Frogs. Bazarnik, two days after clinching the Illini’s victory over Texas, fell in the second singles match of the day to Arnau Dachs. Illini freshman Toshiki Matsuya fell in straight sets to Facundo Lugones, dropping to 1-1 on the weekend.

    While the Illini’s doubles clicked Saturday against Texas and the freshmen came on strong against Texas A&M, Illinois couldn’t put it together on Monday. The new doubles line-ups had their worst showing of the weekend and Matsuya was the only freshman to play a complete match. No. 49 Aleks Vukic won the first set against No. 31 Cameron Norrie 7-5 and was tied 2-2 in the second. No. 76 Aron Hiltzik was down 6-4, 4-2 before the match was called.

    The Illini finished their trip through Texas with a 2-1 record. They have a weekend off before resuming play on March 27 against Penn State. Dancer said everyone has things to work on individually.

    “Tennis is an individual sport. We’ll talk to each guy and figure out where each guy is,” Dancer said. “Figure out what they need to do to be at their best in 10-days time.”

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