Illinois men’s tennis get pair of road wins in Hiltzik’s return

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Austin Yattoni

Illinois’ Aron Hiltzik gets ready to return a ball against Wisconsin at the Atkins Tennis Center on April 3.

By Brian Binz, Staff writer

It’d been 21 days since Aron Hiltzik played in a match for the Illinois men’s tennis team, but it didn’t take him long to make an impact.

The junior clinched the winning singles point Saturday, giving Illinois its first road win over a ranked team this year, defeating No. 14 Michigan 4-2 in Ann Arbor.

It was not easy for Hiltzik and the Illini, as they started with their first doubles point loss in five matches.

“They dismantled us in doubles,” said head coach Brad Dancer. “There’s nothing left to say about that.”

However, the Illini turned it around in singles play with both Aleks Vukic and Noe Khlif winning in straight sets, making the score 2-2.

The match fell on the shoulders of Hiltzik and freshman Aleks Kovacevic to gain the two points the Illini needed.

Kovacevic rallied after losing the first set to take the next two, winning 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, leaving the Illini one point away from the road victory.

Hiltzik delivered, beating the Wolverines’ Alex Knight in three sets, 6-2, 3-6, 7-5, and won the last three games in the decisive third set after falling behind 5-4.

“I’m proud of Aron for continuing to give himself a chance when he was nowhere near his best,” Dancer said. “That match was all mental for him today, and he gutted it out for the team.”

Illinois traveled to Michigan State on Sunday, where they delivered a resounding follow-up performance as Dancer won his 100th Big Ten match with the program.

The Illini gave Vukic and his 16-straight singles wins a rest, defeating the Spartans 7-0 behind five freshmen singles players.

Hiltzik got his second win of the weekend, joining Khlif, Gui Gomes, Kovacevic, Zeke Clark and Vuk Budic in the win column Sunday.

The Illini have won five matches in a row after suffering a four-match losing streak in March. The team now boasts a 6-2 Big Ten record.

Illinois looks to continue the winning streak next weekend at home, taking on Penn State and Ohio State on Saturday and Sunday, respectively.

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