Illinois men’s tennis exits Big Ten tournament with 1-1 record

By Martin O'Connor, Staff Writer

Much like during the rest of this Spring 2023 season, Illinois men’s tennis showed at the Big Ten tournament that it is still a couple of levels behind its top competitors in the conference. Despite finishing their regular season with an 18-10 record, this season has proven to be fairly inconsistent for the team. In their matchups against Nebraska and Ohio State, tournament history repeated itself twice as the team once again handled a weaker Nebraska side but could not get it done versus a very strong Ohio State side.

Illinois came into the tournament as the No. 4 seed. In their first matchup, they took on the No. 5 seed Cornhuskers, where for the second time this season, the Illini beat them 4-2. The matchup wasn’t any easier the second time as Illinois struggled at the start with its doubles matches but picked it back up in singles play.

Starting with doubles play, sophomore Mathis Debru and graduate student Oliver Okonkwo were defeated by Leo Linquet and William Gleason 6-3. Things didn’t get better in the next matchup, with redshirt junior Lucas Horve and sophomore Gabrielius Guzauskas losing 6-4 to Nic Wiedenhorn and Shunya Maruyama. Things changed, however, thanks to sophomore William Mroz and junior Hunter Heck, as they won 6-3 versus Calvin Mueller and Lars Johann.

With two losses out of the three doubles matches played, the Illini needed to step it up in singles play, and step it up they did. Junior Alex Petrov, freshman Kenta Miyoshi, Heck and Mroz all went on to win their doubles matches, with graduate student Nic Meister being the lone loss in singles play and Okonkwo’s match going unfinished. Heck, Petrov and Mroz all made light work of their opponents, but Miyoshi had to earn his win in a close match against Gleason. Overall the team had a slow start, but they quickly were able to find their groove in singles play.

The win against Nebraska meant that the Illini would then take on the No. 1 seed Ohio State. Interestingly enough, Ohio State and Illinois have already played three times against each other this spring season, with the Illini on the losing end in each matchup. Things did not go differently, however, as Illinois was eliminated from the tournament losing 4-1.

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    Starting with doubles play, no one could get anything going as they did not win any of their three matchups. Sophomore Karlis Ozolins and Heck fought hard against Justin Boulais and Robert Cash, but it wasn’t meant to be, as they lost 7-6 (8-6). Debru and Okonkwo had their match against James Trotter and Andrew Lutschaunig go unfinished while Horve and Guzauskas lost 6-2.

    Things did not improve in singles play as Miyoshi picked up the sole win against Ohio State in his 6-3, 1-6, 6-3 win over Jack Anthrop. Both Heck and Petrov had their singles matches go unfinished, while Ozolins and Okonkwo lost their tough matchups.

    The Illini play next at the NCAA tournament starting on Friday. They will learn their upcoming opponent on Monday at the selection show.

     

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