Clinch on court 2 delivers second win of week for Illinois men’s tennis


Sidney Malone

Graduate student Oliver Stuart reaches towards the ball during his singles match against Baylor on March 4. Stuart won his match against UCF on Friday with 6-4, 4-6 and 6-1, and the Illini winning overall against the Knights 4-3.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

Illinois men’s tennis traveled to Florida this week for matches against Fairleigh Dickinson, No. 1 Florida and Central Florida, where they finished the week 2-1.

This week served as great practice for the now 6-9 Illini who are just one week away from conference play. 

Illinois’ first set of games this week was played in Gainesville. The Fairleigh Dickinson Knights were up first, and saw the Illini complete a 4-0 sweep. In doubles, the Illini dominated, as No. 35 pair of redshirt sophomore Lucas Horve and sophomore Hunter Heck defeated their opponents quickly 6-1, before the doubles point was clinched by graduate student Olivier Stuart and redshirt junior Siphosothando Montsi on Court 2 with another 6-1 win.

In singles, this trend would continue. Senior Nic Meister continued the scoring for Illinois with a 6-3, 6-0 win on Court 6, while Horve defeated his opponent on Court 5 6-0, 6-2. This put the Illini up 3-0, giving freshman Gabrielius Guzauskas the opportunity to clinch the match on Court 4 with a 6-0, 6-4 win.

Just a couple hours after this dominant performance against the Knights, the No. 1 Gators dismantled the Illini, defeating them 7-0. While the doubles remained close, seeing Stuart and Montsi win their match and Heck and Horve drop a close match 7-6 (7), the singles matches were dominated by Florida, with no real standout performers from Illinois.

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Illinois’ last match of the weekend featured the Central Florida Knights, where the two teams would be engaged in a nail-biter of a match that would end in a 4-3 Illini victory. Doubles play, which has been reliable for Illinois so far this season, was actually where they would fall behind. The Court 3 duo of graduate student Alex Brown and Guzauskas won their match 6-3, but the Knights won on Court 1 and Court 2, giving them the doubles point.

With the Knights up 1-0, the Illini needed four singles wins to clinch the match. After losing a match on Court 4 and going down 2-0, Illinois struck back with two quick wins by Heck on Court 3, 6-4 in straight sets and Meister on Court 6, 6-4, 6-2. This tied the match up at 2-2, before the Illini grabbed another win on Court 1 by Montsi, 6-3, 1-6, 6-2. The teams traded blows once more, as UCF tied up the match at 3-3 with a win on Court 5, before Stuart clinched this grueling match for Illinois on Court 2, 6-4, 4-6, 6-1.

This match goes far beyond this week, as Illinois begins Big Ten play against another top five opponent in less than a week. 

This week’s matches moved the Illini to 6-9 on the season. After a shaky start, the Illini may be finding ways to win at the right time in the season. Next Friday’s match against Ohio State marks the start of Big Ten play, where Illinois will officially start its defense of the 2021 Big Ten Tournament title.



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