Illinois men’s tennis shows improvements, picks up wins at ITA Midwest Regionals

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Cameron Krasucki

Senior Kweisi Kenyatte hits the ball during a match against Minnesota on April 4. The Illinois men’s tennis team performed well at the ITA Midwest Regionals this past weekend.

By Drew Friberg, Staff Writer

Illinois’ weekend at East Lansing’s ITA Midwest Regionals tournament was a successful one, which saw many Illini make deep runs in the tournament. The tournament’s main draw started off on Thursday in the round of 64, which saw four of the eight Illini participating in the singles bracket and picking up wins. 

The player that saw the most success in the singles bracket was graduate student Olivier Stuart, who breezed through his first round match, 6-4 and 6-0. Stuart was forced to work in his round of 32 match, battling back from losing the first set, 6-4, and ultimately winning the last two sets 6-1 and 6-4. Stuart’s round of 16 match saw him knock off the No. 4 seed of the singles bracket in a tight victory, winning 6-4 and 7-5. After a great singles bracket run, Stuart’s tournament ended in the quarterfinals, losing 6-2 in back-to-back sets.

In addition to Stuart’s run in the singles bracket, the Illini had two other players fight their way into the round of 16 in sophomore Hunter Heck and senior Kweisi Kenyatte. Heck’s first-round victory was hard-fought, winning the first set, 7-6(5), losing the second set, 6-4, and bouncing back to win the third, 6-3. Heck went on to win his round of 32 match, 6-3 and 6-1, sending him into the round of 16, where his singles bracket run ended after a 6-2 and 6-3 loss to the No. 2 seed.

Kenyatte followed in Heck’s footsteps, winning his first two rounds with ease: 6-4 and 6-3, and 6-4 and 4-0, respectively. Kenyatte’s round of 16 matchup ultimately ended in defeat for him as well, losing a close match, 6-4 and 7-6(3), and ending his singles bracket run. 

The Illini then shifted their focus toward the doubles bracket, which saw four Illinois duos participate. The first consisted of sophomore Alex Petrov and freshman Gabrielius Guzauskas, who won their first match in the bracket, 8-7(3). The pair was then knocked out of doubles play in their next match, losing 8-6. 

Next up for the Illini was a team of Kenyatte and graduate student Alex Brown, who had a first-round bye. The pair’s round of 32 matchup ended in a 8-6 win for the Illini. Shortly after, Brown and Kenyatte’s tournament ended early in the round of 16, losing their match, 8-5.

The other two Illinois duos lost to the eventual victors of the doubles bracket in heartbreaking fashion. One of these teams consisted of Heck and redshirt sophomore Lucas Horve, who breezed through their first two rounds. After a first-round bye and an 8-1 victory in the round of 32, the pair found themselves having to grind out a win in the round of 16, winning 8-7(4) and moving onto the quarterfinals. In the quarterfinals, Heck and Horve suffered a loss at the hands of the eventual winners of the doubles bracket, 8-5, ending their tournament. 

The other pair that faced the eventual winners consisted of Stuart and redshirt junior Nic Meister. The two started out with a first-round bye, before winning their close round of 32 match, 8-7(2). Meister and Stuart carried this momentum into the next few rounds, knocking off the No. 2 seed, 8-6, and then the No. 10 seed 8-5. This put the duo in the semifinals against the team that had knocked off Heck and Horve just one match before. Unable to exact revenge for their teammates, Stuart and Meister were defeated in heartbreaking fashion, losing the first set, 6-3, winning the next set, 6-3, and losing the tiebreaker, 10-4. 

With this loss, the Illini’s weekend in East Lansing was over. ITA Midwest Regionals is where the team saw their highest tournament placings this fall season. With big tournaments like the Big Ten Singles Championships just a few weeks away, now is the right time for the team to be heating up.

 

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