Big Ten Tournament Tennis Preview


The Daily Illini File Photo

Aleks Kovacevic returns the ball during the match against Penn State at the Atkins Tennis Center on April 12. Kovacevic carries the best NCAA tournament run since 2007.

By Nithin Reddy, Staff Writer

On Friday, the Illini men’s tennis team will travel to Ann Arbor, Michigan, where they’ll compete in the Big Ten Tournament.

After an impressive 10-1 record in conference play, the Illini will attempt to claim the 2019 Big Ten Tournament title. Illinois enters the tournament as the No. 2 seed, falling just behind the Ohio State, which went undefeated in conference play and are the current No. 1-ranked team in the country. While the Illini’s lone loss in conference play was to the Buckeyes, head coach Brad Dancer isn’t focused on Ohio State.

“Ohio State won the regular season, but our focus is going to be entirely on Friday afternoon,” Dancer said.

The Illini were given a first-round bye and will play the winner of the Northwestern vs. Purdue match. When Illinois faced Northwestern earlier this year, the Illini stomped on the Wildcats. In singles play, freshman Siphosothando Montsi, sophomore Alex Brown and junior Noe Khlif won their matches in straight sets. In doubles play, sophomore Caleb Chakravarthi and Brown won their match and junior Vuk Budic and redshirt sophomore Gui Gomes won theirs, giving the Illini an easy 4-0 win.

Against Purdue, Illinois had similar success. In singles play, freshman Keenan Mayo, junior Zeke Clark and Gomes won in straight sets. In doubles play, the duos of Khlif and Clark and junior Aleks Kovacevic and Brown lost only one game in each match, giving the Illini another 4-0 victory.  

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Illinois’ top singles player, Kovacevic, will be one of the Illini’s key components in the Big Ten Tournament. After an impressive 16-2 individual record in the regular season, the No. 8-ranked player in the country is playing some of his best tennis, and Dancer has noticed.

“He’s been incredible,” Dancer said, “He’s had one of the best seasons I’ve ever been a part of and that’s a huge testament to his progress and maturation.”

The Illini’s first match will be Friday at 1 p.m. CDT and if they win, they will advance to the semifinal on Saturday.


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