Illinois men’s tennis looks to rebound at home opening weekend with four matches

By Martin O'Connor, Staff Writer

Illinois men’s tennis has a packed weekend ahead of it for its home opening weekend at Atkins. On Saturday the team faces off against Butler at 10 a.m. and then Illinois State at 6 p.m. Then on Sunday they compete against Drake at 1 p.m. before concluding the weekend with a duel against Bellarmine at 5 p.m. The team will be looking to start their home record off strong.

After a strong 2-0 start to the season with wins versus Wichita State and Bryant, the team went away last weekend to play NCAA 2022 runner-up No. 5 Kentucky and No. 2 Ohio State. They lost both matches, only picking up two individual wins, and they now sit with a 2-2 record. 

Graduate transfer Oliver Okonkwo picked up the one win the Illini had against the Buckeyes and now is looking to keep that momentum going into this weekend. 

“I’m pretty happy with the way I’m performing right now and also I’m thinking smarter on the court, which I think is helping a lot towards my performance aspects,”  Okonkwo said. 

After missing last season due to injury he is looking out for his body and is playing with something to prove.

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The team is excited to play at home again as they are well aware of the advantage that comes with playing at Atkins. Okonkwo said he knows what it is like to be an opposing player stepping out onto the court at Atkins, he knows it can get loud.

“Personally for me I like playing at home,” Okonkwo said. “I think this team, the majority of them, enjoy playing at home. It’s definitely a big advantage to be playing at home and it’ll be nice to be a part of a home game again.”

The players are excited to have their first home game this season and will look to bounce back after the two losses last weekend, with four matches now on the horizon.


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