Illinois men’s tennis hosts Fighting Illini Invite, sees mixed results over three-day event


James Hoeck

Redshirt junior Nic Meister serves the ball during the Fighting Illini Invite Sunday. The team saw mixed results over the weekend.

By Drew Friberg, Contributing Writer

Illinois men’s tennis continued its regular-season preparations at the Fighting Illini Invite this weekend with matches against Arizona State, Tennessee and Middle Tennessee State. 

The weekend proved to have a lot of tough matches for the Illini, with all three invited schools putting up a good fight against the reigning Big Ten champions. The importance of good preseason competition for the team cannot be understated.

“We were tested across the board in many different ways,” said head coach Brad Dancer after the final match of the weekend. “This is what we need if we are going to grow as a team.”

Friday saw the Illini take on the Arizona State Sun Devils, with the Illini winning just one of the four doubles matches played. Graduate student Alex Brown and senior Kweisi Kenyatte teamed up to defeat their opponents, 6-2, making them the lone victors for the Illini. 

The Illini bounced back from their tough doubles showing with six wins out of seven in singles play. Sophomore Alex Petrov led the way with a dominant showing, winning his sets, 6-1 and 6-3. Sophomore Hunter Heck followed in Petrov’s footsteps, defeating his opponent, 6-1 and 7-5, soon after. Redshirt sophomore Lucas Horve won his first set, 6-3, but his opponent was forced to retire due to injury, giving Horve the victory as well. Freshman Gabrielius Guzauskas won both of his sets, 6-3 and 6-4, and Brown won his match despite being pushed hard in set two with final scores of 6-0 and 7-6. Rounding out Illinois’ success in singles play, Olivier Stuart dropped his first set 6-4, but battled back to win two straight sets, 6-2 and 6-1.

Day two of the Fighting Illini Invite was not as much of a success for the Illini as day one was. Saturday saw the Illini take on the Volunteers of Tennessee, who came ready to play. Illinois won just one match throughout the entire day, which was a doubles match featuring Guzauskas and Stuart, in which the pair won their match, 6-4. Tennessee’s team displayed their dominance throughout the day, with few close matches to speak of.

“We’re not at a level that we as a team expect to be at every year,” Dancer said. “Hopefully this is a wake up call for us.”

Sunday was a great opportunity for Illinois to rebound and correct the mistakes from the day before. Middle Tennessee State put up a big fight, sweeping the Illini in doubles play.

In singles play, however, three players achieved their second wins of the weekend. Again, Petrov led by example with another quick victory, winning both sets 6-1. Brown won a hardfought match in three sets, winning the first 6-4, losing the second, 6-1, and winning the final set, 6-4. Heck joined the other two victors, winning his match, 6-4 and 6-1. Although Illinois lost the majority of their games to the Blue Raiders, there are still positives to take away from the match.

Next weekend, the team is set to travel to the ITA Midwest Regionals competition in East Lansing, Michigan, where they will look to learn from the matches of this past weekend.

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