Illinois men’s tennis star Olivier Stuart brings confidence to postseason singles in first round of NCAA Tournament


Sidney Malone

Graduate student Olivier Stuart reaches over to pass back the ball during his singles match against Purdue on April 24. Stuart achieved a 9-7 for his singles record this season.

By Drew Friberg, Sports Editor

Sunday afternoon’s bracket seeding for the NCAA Championship singles competition saw Illinois men’s tennis’ No. 59 graduate student Olivier Stuart pitted against Harvard’s No. 38 Henry von der Schulenburg in the round of 64.

Stuart’s regular season was one of the best for Illinois, posting a 9-7 singles record on the season. During conference play, the Frenchman earned second-team All-Big Ten honors for his notoriously solid singles play that kept Illinois competitive in many team meets this season.

Even before conference play, however, Stuart has some big performances on his resume. In the team’s first match of the season, Stuart went against Ohio State’s No. 9 Cannon Kingsley, where he was knotted at 6-6 (11-11) when the match went unfinished. Stuart took down Oklahoma’s No. 37 Mason Beiler 6-2, 6-1 at ITA Kickoff Weekend early in the season, and was leading Michigan’s No. 63 Andrew Fenty 7-5, 3-2 at the time of the stoppage.

While some of these matches went unfinished, they showed Stuart can hang with some of the best in the nation. Stuart’s confidence going into the postseason was high.

“I’m pretty confident,” Stuart said after the last home meet of the regular season. “I haven’t been playing great, but it is a huge boost in confidence winning three matches in a row. I’m excited to go into Big Tens and the NCAA Championships.”

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Von der Schulenburg’s resume is equally if not more impressive than Stuart’s. The Swiss international boasts a 12-5 singles record in the regular season, peaking at No. 17 overall. Additionally, he helped No. 14 Harvard reach the round of 32 in the NCAA Championships, where it was upset by Stanford, 4-3. Von der Schulenburg also beat Fenty in their regular season match 6-4, 6-1 before beating Penn’s No. 41 Edoardo Graziani 6-4, 6-4 later in the season. 

With these matches in mind, Stuart and von der Schulenburg’s battle will not be an average one. If both are playing up to each others’ standards, Stuart’s two week-long rest may give him an advantage over von der Schulenburg’s one week rest from his NCAA Championships appearance.

Zooming out from Stuart’s first round match, TCU’s No. 12 Luc Fomba hosts Stuart’s block of four players as the 9-16 seed that is expected to make the Sweet 16. If both win, Fomba and Stuart will match up in the round of 32.

Stuart and Fomba matched up on Court 1 when the Illini hosted the Horned Frogs early in the season, and the match went unfinished, with Fomba narrowly leading late in the third set when the match was called, 4-6, 6-4, 4-3. This performance from Stuart exemplified what he is capable of: competing with the very best.

The graduate transfer has every reason to be confident going into Monday’s 5:30 p.m. match. With a solid effort, Stuart has a solid draw to make a big run into the singles championship.



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