Illinois men’s tennis splits doubleheader, beats Chicago State after falling to Ohio State

Illinois+Mens+Tennis+Hunter+Heck+begins+to+swing+his+racket+during+his+singles+match+against+Chicago+State+on+Jan.+22.+The+Illini+won+against+the+Cougars+4-0.+

Sydney Laput

Illinois Men’s Tennis Hunter Heck begins to swing his racket during his singles match against Chicago State on Jan. 22. The Illini won against the Cougars 4-0.

By Drew Friberg, Staff Writer

Saturday’s home opener saw the Illini fall to the Buckeyes of Ohio State, 4-0, and beat the Cougars of Chicago State, 4-0, later that day.

Overall, Saturday was not the kind of performance the team anticipated. A blowout loss to a conference rival in the Illini’s home opener is not the way any player wanted it to go.

“The first match definitely woke us up,” said sophomore Hunter Heck. “We came in pretty confident. We thought we were prepared, and Ohio State blew us out. None of us played all that well.”

The Illini didn’t have much to write home about after their early afternoon bout against the Buckeyes. They struggled to put any sort of points on the board, losing two doubles matches to the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles pairs in the country and getting blown out in three of the singles matches. Three Illini kept their singles matches close, most notably No. 97 Olivier Stuart, who was in a first-set tiebreaker at a score of 6-6 (11-11) before a Buckeye win on Court 4 sealed an Illini loss.

Head coach Brad Dancer cited a lack of focus as a reason for such an overall blowout. Many things need to improve for the Illini if they are going to look to compete with the Buckeyes and defend their Big Ten championship of last season.

“We have to get better at focusing and dialing things in,” Dancer said. “You win in tennis by putting consistent pressure on someone, and we did not do that at all today. Focus and consistency are the two big things that (we) have to improve on.”

While this loss was a huge mental knock for the Illini, they were able to bounce back later in the day and cruise to a 4-0 victory over the Cougars.

Alex Brown and Gabrielius Guzauskas won the first doubles match for the Illini, defeating their opponents 6-2. Securing the point in doubles for the Illini was the pair of Heck and Lucas Horve, who won their match 6-1. 

Illinois carried this momentum into the singles matches, where Alex Petrov dominated his opponent and secured the Illini’s first singles point, winning his match, 6-0, 6-1. Shortly after, Heck defeated his opponent, 6-2 in both sets, putting the Illini up 3-0. Needing just one more point for victory, Nic Meister clinched the win for the Illini with a win over his opponent, 6-3, 7-6.

After such a tough loss earlier in the day, the Illini displayed the mental fortitude needed to regain confidence and secure a much-needed victory.

“We are all doing a good job bouncing back,” Heck said. “It shows you can be pretty resilient even after a tough loss.”

The Illini will look to dial in and recover from this tough Saturday of matches when they head to Oxford, Mississippi, next weekend for a round of ITA matches. They will take on North Carolina State on Saturday and, with a win, will take on the winner of Ole Miss and Oklahoma on Sunday.

 

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