Illinois men’s tennis hoping to achieve greater consistency, see progress at ITA All-Americans

The Illinois men’s tennis team enters its second tournament of the season Monday at the ITA All-American Championships in Tulsa, Okla., with a chance to qualify individuals for the ITA Indoor Championships in November.

“We are not really looking at this tournament with the lens of who can qualify for indoor nationals or not,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “We’re looking at this tournament as a chance to progress as a team and see how we compete in a top-level tournament.”

A key focus for the Illini throughout the week is the reunion of juniors Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon in the doubles. Their play in the main draw of the doubles will be the first time since May that Kopinski and Guignon will compete together as a tandem.

“I am really looking forward to get back out on the court playing with Tim,” Guignon said. “There is definitely going to be a number of difficulties for us to become comfortable playing together again since we haven’t competed in doubles for an extended period of time.”

Dancer emphasized that he is looking for strong serves from the duo. He has continually made it known that serving is the weakest aspect for all doubles tandems, and he is especially looking to see how it looks with Kopinski and Guignon.

On the singles side, the Illini will be sending four individual players to compete. The main draw, which begins Thursday, will include sophomore Jared Hiltzik. The main draw includes the top 64 players in the nation. While a goal to qualify for November’s ITA indoor nationals — which requires him to be a quarter finalist — is important to Hiltzik, that is not his main motivation to play well.

“To qualify for indoor nationals, all I need to do is make it to the quarterfinals, so I’m not too stressed out about that,” Hiltzik said. “This tournament presents a big opportunity to see how I fare against the best tennis competition. There will be a lot of talent this week, and I want to see how my game stacks up.”

The Illini will be represented by two individuals in the qualifying draw of the tournament. Kopinski, coming off a successful tournament two weeks ago, is looking for further strong results against tougher competition. Guignon, who missed the Illini’s season-opening tournament, said he wanted to see if there would be any ill-effects from his knee soreness that kept him out two weekends ago.

Prior to the arrival of the entire team, junior Farris Gosea began play in the pre-qualifying draw Saturday. As of Sunday afternoon, Gosea had won two matches — including a straight sets victory over Tennessee’s Sean Karl. Dancer said he was fond of the two victories Gosea had collected and was impressed with his composure and solid tactical play.

“There was a lot of inconsistency with our play in singles two weeks ago to open up the season,” Dancer said. “I am happy with how Farris has played up to this point, and I envisioned him finishing his tournament strongly. For all of us, attaining a level of consistent success is important and is something we will look at closely throughout the course of the week.”

Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @danescalona77.