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

Miyoshi’s championship win in Milwaukee headlines first weekend of men’s tennis

Eric Chiang
Sophomore Kenta Miyoshi serves against Michael Minasyan playing for Wisconsin in singles on Apr. 14.

Last weekend featured Illinois men’s tennis’ first action of the fall season. It was a bit atypical, in that the squad split into two groups who traveled to destinations separated by a couple thousand miles. Head coach Brad Dancer, senior Alex Petrov and junior Karlis Ozolins went west to compete in the Battle In The Bay while assistant coach Tim Kopinski traveled to Milwaukee with redshirt senior Lucas Horve, sophomore Kenta Miyoshi, sophomore Tyler Bowers and freshman Jeremy Zhang.

Petrov and Ozolins took the court first, competing both as a duo and individually. By the end of the day, two of those three groups were still standing. In doubles, the two prevailed through a very tightly contested affair for an eventual 8-6 victory. Ozolins made short work of his opponent in the singles draw, advancing in straight sets with dominant 6-0 and 6-3 performances. Things appeared to be going well for Petrov, who came out on top of a tie-breaking 7-6 set but was ultimately bested through three sets.

The competition only got stiffer on day two, where the Illini fell out of the doubles draw in a nail-biting 8-7 loss. Ozolins continued to advance through the singles draw, winning 6-4, 6-7, 6-2 in the second round, but was defeated in the quarterfinals by a competitor from Michigan State.

Petrov went on to win a couple of consolation matches with ease. The first of which was a relatively uncontested straight-set outing (6-2, 6-3) whereas the second was complete dominance (6-1, 6-1). The growth shown by Petrov on the court was extremely encouraging for Dancer, who noted that this weekend seemed to reveal an entirely new layer of Petrov’s abilities. 

“For Petrov, it was great deliberation,” Dancer said. “We’re working on a lot of decompression, in terms of his arousal levels and so forth. He, almost going to the opposite end of that spectrum, went to being more emotional, letting more things emote. We got to see a more human side of him on the court, a playfulness. He’s always competed with a ferocity, which is fantastic, but there was certainly a playfulness that came about this weekend, and I think that’s a fantastic long-term path for him as he continues to try to grow.”

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Returning to the Midwest, Illinois’ superb collection of underclassmen was on full display. All four Illini participated in the singles draw, with Miyoshi/Horve and Zhang/Bowers being the doubles pairings. 

Bowers and Zhang cruised through their first singles matches. Both won in straight sets and lost just six games each. After dropping the first set 6-4, Miyoshi was fighting an uphill battle but unfortunately for his opponent, it was a battle that he came out on top of. He rallied to even the count with a 7-5 win in the second before putting the match away in the final stanza (6-3). 

Horve was the lone Illini who fell in the first round, but even he put up a valiant fight and had a dominant 6-2 second set victory. 

“It was a little heartbreaking for Lucas Horve,” Dancer said. “He’s been right on the cusp so many times and I think he had a great chance in one of his earlier matches to capitalize on that to take a seed’s position, but he didn’t do that and that’s kinda the way it goes.” 

Bowers was defeated in the second round, but both Miyoshi and Zhang advanced to the quarter finals. Miyoshi did so in straight sets while Zhang closed out a three-set match with an impressive 6-1 count. 

On the doubles side, Zhang/Bowers fell 6-3 in the first round while Miyoshi and Horve advanced as far as the second round.

Illinois’ numbers dwindled to one early in the second day, as Zhang was eliminated in the quarterfinals by No. 80 Toledo senior Pawit Sornlaksup. Miyoshi was matched up against Sornlaksup in the semifinal and was leading 6-1, 1-1 when Sornlaksup retired from the match, giving Miyoshi an early entry to the finals.

In the finals, Miyoshi dominated the first set. Of the six games he won en route to a 6-2 victory, he held his opponent to 15 or fewer four times. Although he ended up falling 7-5 in the second set, Miyoshi put up an extremely respectable effort and even had the game knotted at 40-40 during set-point. 

Entering the final set of the tournament, Miyoshi lost the first game on back-to-back double faults. Despite this being an extremely demoralizing position to be in, Miyoshi rebounded with some of his best tennis as an Illini that was capped off by an ace which brought the score to 4-1. From there, Miyoshi was in the driver’s seat and cruised to an eventual 6-3 victory which crowned him champion of the Milwaukee Tennis Classic.

“Kenta’s the story of Milwaukee,” Dancer said. “He’s living and breathing our program, he’s milking it for everything it’s worth, and that’s what we want out of our guys. It’s skill sessions and extra fitness and extra stretching and extra meditation, those things pay off. When you’re doing all those things and then you compete like an animal, which he does, you get a lot better.”



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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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