Vukic's victory highlights success night for Illinois men's tennis

By Mike Gasick

Friday night against Notre Dame was just one of those matches for Illinois men’s tennis sophomore Aleks Vukic.

The Australian native took on No. 37 Quentin Monaghan of Notre Dame and swept him in a 6-0, 6-0 victory. This was the first time Vukic completed a match in which he did not give up a game.

“Really anything I was doing today was working for me,” Vukic said. “I am sure (Monaghan) didn’t play nowhere near where he could have played, so I got a bit lucky there, but it was just good to get a point on the board.”

Vukic’s singles victory was part of a 5-2 Illini win. It was their second victory against Notre Dame this year — Illinois defeated the Irish 4-0 back in January.

Monaghan was overpowered by Vukic’s strong serving and consistent play. Vukic continued stepping around his backhand shots to hit inside-out forehands that kept Monaghan guessing whether he would put the ball crosscourt or down the line.

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“Vukic was incredible tonight,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “You’re talking about Quentin Monaghan as one of the great players in the NCAA, and Vukic was styled in. He was much more into what we know he is capable of playing tonight.”

Vukic was also able to take down Monaghan in doubles as well, as he teamed up with sophomore Aron Hiltzik to defeat Monaghan and partner Grayson Broadus, 6-2.

Dancer noted that Vukic has had some slow starts in previous matches but was excited to see the performance he put on for his teammates.

Vukic’s victory gave the Illini a 2-0 lead over the Notre Dame Fighting Irish after Illinois garnered a point from the doubles matches.

Senior Jared Hiltzik was next off the court, as he cruised to an easy 6-1, 6-4 match win, avenging a doubles loss earlier in the match.

Notre Dame’s Josh Hagar defeated junior Alex Jesse 6-2, 6-1 to put the Fighting Irish on the board.

For the deciding point of the match, both Aron Hiltzik and junior Julian Childers were at match point in their respective matches. Both the players had long rallies with their opponents, as Aron was first to close out his opponent, with Childers following seconds after.

In the final match of the night, freshman Asher Hirsch took Broadus to a third set, which was played as a 10-point pro-set to decide the match. Hirsch took the first set 6-3 but lost the second set in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-3). The third set was back and forth, but Broadus came out on top to claim the third set, 10-8.

Overall, Dancer was pleased with the effort, saying that Vukic was the highlight of the night. He however would have liked to have seen more consistency in closing out matches.

“Our guys are staying focused enough to put wins together, so I am proud of them for that, but we have to get a lot better, especially with this stretch coming up,” Dancer said.

That stretch includes a trip to Charlottesville, Virginia to compete in the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, as well as dual matches against three top-five opponents over the next couple of weeks.

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