Illinois men's tennis follows up top-10 victory with top-10 loss

By Mike Gasick

Illinois mens tennis could not pick up a win against No. 8 TCU after beating No. 2 Virginia on SaturdayBy Mike Gasick

Illinois head coach Brad Dancer said he had never before been a part of a sequence like his team put together Saturday.

The Illinois men’s tennis team was down 3-2 against the No. 2 Virginia Cavaliers with freshman Asher Hirsch and sophomore Aleks Vukic still playing in their respective matches.EJ

Hirsch was ahead 5-4 in the third set with a 40-30 lead over Luca Corinteli. After a long, drawn-out point, the freshman hit a forehand winner to seal the No. 6 singles position for the Illini, evening the match score at three. EJ

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    The match would be tied for about 30 seconds.

    As Hirsch hit his final shot, Vukic began his own match point on court two. After winning 7-6 in the first set and dropping the second set 4-6, Vukic had a commanding 5-2 lead over No. 3 Thai-Son Kwiatkowski in the third.EJ

    Similar to Asher’s match-winning point, Vukic hit multiple shots to set up the game-winner down the line to secure an Illinois victory.

    “(Asher’s match) kind of distracted me a bit if i’m being honest,” Vukic said. “I just had to trust myself with the work I’ve put in and the support (from the fans).”

    Unable to keep the momentum

    After defeating Virginia, the Illini went up against No. 8 TCUEJ in the nation with fewer fans in the stands Sunday.

    The Illini began the day with two early break point opportunities on courts one and two. The pair of Alex Jesse and Jared Hiltzik, along with Vukic and Aron Hiltzik, came through to take early leads over their opponents.

    Jesse and Jared would keep the pressure on and eventually come away on top, 6-0. Vukic and Aron had a more difficult time. The teams went back and forth breaking and holding serve throughout the set. TCU would defeat the pair, 6-3. On court three, the duo of Brian Page and Julian Childers never could get much momentum in their favor, dropping the set 6-2.EJ

    The matchup to watch on the singles side was No. 9 Vukic matching up against No. 2 Cameron Norrie on court two.EJ Norrie moved Vukic around all over the court to force him to make some difficult shots. Norrie would outlast Vukic 6-4, 7-5.

    The Illini would lose two more singles matches on courts six and four, ultimately falling to the Horned Frogs, 5-2.

    “We just didn’t take care of things when we needed to take care of things,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “If you do that against a good team, you’re going to lose, but you have give TCU a lot of credit, they came in here and got a road win.”

    The bright spots in singles for the Illini were from Jared and freshman Asher Hirsch. Jared once again defeated his opponent in straight sets.

    “I think I played well, maybe one hiccup in the second set when I was serving for the match, but other than that I thought I played pretty well,” Jared said.

    Hirsch won a three-set match on court six, completing his second consecutive and overall victory this season.

    TCU has had Illinois’ number this year: The Horned Frogs managed to defeat the Illini 4-0 in the ITA National Indoor Championship two weeks ago.EJ

    The Illini will be off for two weeks — they take on Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois, on March 12.EJ

    [email protected]@mike_mgasickh