The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

The independent student newspaper at the University of Illinois since 1871

The Daily Illini

Fall season begins with pair of invitationals for Illinois men’s tennis

Following a spring season that saw Illinois men’s tennis earn an overall record of 19-11, combined with a 6-3 mark against Big Ten opponents, head coach Brad Dancer and his squad will kick off their fall schedule with competitions in San Francisco and Milwaukee. Six of the 11 members on Illinois’ roster will be competing.

The draws for both tournaments have not been publicly released, but Dancer will be accompanying senior Alex Petrov and junior Karlis Ozolins to California while assistant coach Tim Kopinski makes the trip to Wisconsin with redshirt senior Lucas Horve, sophomore Kenta Miyoshi, sophomore Tyler Bowers and freshman Jeremy Zhang. 

At the Battle in the Bay, Petrov and Ozolins will be competing for a wild card entry into $100k Tiburon Men’s ATP Challenger Tournament and $80k Fairfield Men’s ATP Challenger Tournament, granted to the winner of the men’s singles event and men’s Saturday night shootout event.

Tournament matches begin on Thursday, with the Wild Card Shootout event on Saturday and the finals match on Sunday. Petrov is coming off a quarterfinal appearance in the Neitzel Family Open’s singles draw.

Up north, the main draw for singles and doubles will kick off on Friday. Two rounds of singles will be played on both Friday and Saturday, culminating in the finals on Sunday. There is just one doubles round on Friday, but the rest of the schedule is identical for that draw. 

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Miyoshi is also coming off a deep run at the Neitzel Family Open, where he advanced to the doubles final with partner Zeke Clark. 

There is a clear split in experience between the two groups, with the San Francisco duo being composed of two upperclassmen while three of the four Milwaukee attendees are underclassmen. This weekend will be Zhang’s first time ever representing Illinois, on top of it also being Bowers’ first time suiting up since suffering an injury in November 2022. 

Being two of the biggest unknowns on Illinois’ roster at this point, this weekend will be key in shaping where Bowers and Zhang go from here on out.

“Jeremy, we haven’t seen him play that much,” Dancer said. “We’re just kind of getting going, so I think these are initial times for us to assess with him and see where he’s ready to go. Bowers, he ended up getting a medical redshirt this last year because he got injured and was not able to play. He’s still kind of working himself back from that hand injury, but I think he’s at a place where he is ready to demonstrate his level too. I think both of those guys can have great weekends.” 

This season features one of the lowest possible turnover rates a program could ask for, with just one difference between the current roster and last season’s. Though it’s early, the additional camaraderie has been a noticeable bonus.

“I think guys are close right now,” Dancer said. “They’re confident in what they’re doing, and we’ve got a good group. Now it’s a matter of coaches putting all that together.”

 

@blountco21

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About the Contributor
Conor Blount, Senior Sports Reporter
My name is Conor Blount. I’m a junior in aerospace engineering with a minor in computer science. I joined The Daily Illini in the summer of 2022 as a beat writer for the sports section and am now one of three assistant sports editors. My first beat was women’s tennis before I moved to women’s basketball in the spring. I also had the pleasure of covering several former Illini at the 2023 NFL draft and NBA summer league. If you have any questions, I can be reached at the email below.
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