Jared Hiltzik is lone Illini to compete at nationals

By Lucas Wright

Tweet: [email protected] will send lone #Illini to compete at nationals

By Lucas Wright

Staff writer

A lone Illini will carry the torch for the men’s tennis team into the National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship for the third-straight year.

Senior Jared Hiltzik is that player: He will compete in the final National Indoors of his career. Hiltzik has had a long and storied career at Illinois, which has involved a few noteworthy showings at Nationals.

Hiltzik made his first Nationals appearance in his sophomore year, his best showing to date. He entered the field as the No. 8 seed, and during his trek through the bracket, dominated his opponents.

Following a three-set first match in the opening round, Hiltzik made it to the finals by winning three-straight matches without dropping a set. His biggest challenge came in the semifinals against Ray Sarmiento of USC, but then Hiltzik’s biggest test was a tiebreak in the second set, beating Sarmiento, 6-2, 7-5 (5).

Hiltzik then met his match in No. 6 Clay Thompson of UCLA, who hadn’t dropped a set coming into the championship. Thompson sunk Hiltzik in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5.

Despite a first round departure in Hiltzik’s junior year, head coach Brad Dancer said he believes that Hiltzik is primed for a deep run in his final go-around.

“Jared is a much more complete player than he was last year or two years ago,” Dancer said. “He served well in his last match in Tennessee, and now he’s just got to find his balance of how much he is taking the match to the opponents.”

Hiltzik has yet to compete in a collegiate event this season, as he has spent most of his time playing in the smaller events on the pro circuit. His tournaments have included Challenger and Futures events across North America. Hiltzik’s top finish was a semifinal finish at the Mayfair Futures event in Toronto. With his months of experience on the pro tour, Hiltzik says that his time is now for making run at Nationals.

“I’d say I am really ready, because I’ve had a high match count this fall and have gotten a lot of time in on the court,” Hiltzik said. “Right now my mental game is sharp since I’ve been fighting through every match, and I feel like I am ready to compete.”

History may be on Hiltzik’s side this year, as he has garnered the No. 8 seed for Nationals, the same position he started from during his sophomore campaign.

Hiltzik will open his 2015 National Intercollegiate Indoor Championship against unseeded Uros Petronijevic of San Diego. Petronijevic holds the No. 30 overall ranking in the national poll.

Though he received a solid draw and has momentum heading into this weekend, Hiltzik said he is not going to get ahead of himself.

“Anything can happen,” Hiltzik said. “I’m just going to have to go out and fight for every single match.”

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@LucasWright95