Illinois men’s tennis serves up success at MLK Day Tournament


Sohyun Kim

Illinois’ Aron Hiltzik (So.) hits the ball back during the game against Michigan State at Atkins Tennis Center on Friday, Apr. 15, 2016. The Illini won 4-0.

By Meghan Rest, Staff Writer

The Illinois men’s tennis team scored success at its season debut at the Martin Luther King Jr. Invitational in Atlanta. Junior Aron Hiltzik and freshman Aleks Kovacevic led the Illini in singles play, going undefeated during the weekend.

“We have things to focus on in all areas but we fought hard,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “We fought like Illini.”

Hiltzik earned Co-Big Ten Athlete of the Week honors for his performance.

A pair of doubles victories from freshman Noé Khlif and junior Aleks Vukic, as well as freshman Zeke Clark and redshirt sophomore Pablo Landa bolstered momentum for Illinois against Georgia on Saturday morning. Vukic, No. 85 Kovacevic and No. 29 Hiltzik picked up victories against ranked singles opponents as well.

Crushing a straight-set (6-4, 6-4) over Bulldogs’ Samuel Dromsky, Landa also advanced in the tournament.

“Georgia Tech and their staff did an incredible job hosting a first class tournament,” Dancer said. “We knew coming in that we would get challenged every day and we certainly did.”

Illinois faced Georgia Tech on Sunday, resulting in one doubles victory by Hiltzik and Kovacevic over Cole Siegel and No. 61 Andrew Li.

In the singles competition, Hiltzik defeated Li (6-4, 6-2) alongside teammates Kovacevic and Gui Gomes. Clark also collected his first singles win of the tournament. Vukic lost against  No. 9 Christopher Eubanks in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 battle.

Illinois concluded the tournament against Columbia on Monday. The Illini doubles team of redshirt senior Alex Jesse and No. 100 Gomes earned a win over No. 48 Shawn Hadavi and Jackie Tang.

Hiltzik and Kovacevic closed the tournament with two more victories each.

Vukic bounced back against No. 40 Victor Pham to collect his second win over a ranked opponent. Khlif roped in his first singles win of the tournament in a battle against Richard Pham. Clark also clinched his second singles win of the weekend by defeating Alex Keyser.

The Illini will host an Alumni match Saturday at the Atkins Tennis Center beginning at 6 p.m. The first dual match of the season for the Illini is slated for Jan. 28 at the ITA Kick-Off Weekend in Norman, Oklahoma. Illinois will take on Arkansas at 10 a.m.

[email protected]