Inconsistency defines Illini in early rounds of ITA All-Americans

Inconsistency was the biggest obstacle the Illinois men’s tennis team faced in the early rounds of the ITA All Americans in Tulsa, Okla. The Illini saw a fair amount of success, as well as some struggles, from juniors Ross Guignon, Tim Kopinski and Farris Gosea.
“We saw some strong play from all three of our juniors but in no way what I admit those guys had the strong tournament we expected from them,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “Definitely we’re disappointed with not seeing those guys go further in the tournament, and we have to see stronger play going forward.” 
In the qualifying draw of the tournament, the Illini sent Guignon and Kopinski out on the court. Guignon, in his first meet of the season, Opened with a straight sets victory over Tulane’s Dominik Koepfer (6-4, 6-3). In the second round, he bowed out of the tournament following a loss to No. 26-ranked Michael Grant of USC (6-4, 6-1).
Guignon said he was disappointed not to go deeper in the tournament but was nonetheless pleased with how he competed and composed himself in his first tournament since last May.
“Walking away from the All American singles competition, I know I am on a good path to be ready to go when the team season arrives,” he said. “I have to continue training myself to physically, mentally and emotionally last longer in matches during crunch time.”
As with his fellow junior Guignon, Kopinksi followed a similar path with a first-round victory and a subsequent defeat in the second round. He opened up the tournament with a win over Sebastian Sachs of Oklahoma State (6-3, 3-6, 6-2). He was eliminated with a defeat at the hands of USC’s No.13-ranked Jonny Wang (6-2, 7-6).
“We aren’t missing much to compete well with the rest of the field,” he said. “I specifically just need to fine-tune some things. The serve is an important aspect for me, which I definitely struggled at this tournament and need to improve as I go forward.”
In the prequalifying tournament, Gosea advanced further than any other Illini, through Thursdayafternoon. He advanced as far as the fourth round of the prequalifying tournament, including a win over Tennessee’s Sean Karl in straight sets. In the fourth round, he was eliminated in a loss to Elliot Orkin of Florida.
Gosea stated that he was unable to advance further in the tournament due to fatigue in his knees — which he said was a product of not preparing his body well enough during the tournament between matches.
While he admitted his body was a large factor in keeping him from advancing further, Gosea also admitted the need to play stronger tactical tennis.
“I need to step up more and play more aggressively,” he said. “I am going to look to serving bigger and use my forehand more offensively coming up.”
In the main draw, which began Thursday morning, sophomore Jared Hiltzik won his first round match in straight sets over Ace Matias of UNLV. The Illini also sent the duo of Kopinski and Guignon to compete in the main draw of the doubles tournament, which also began Thursday. 
The Illini will be looking for a greater sense of consistency in the main draw as opposed to the inconsistency they saw in the qualifying and prequalifying tournaments.
“We still have a chance to finish out this tournament strongly with some of our top guys competing this weekend in the main draw,” Dancer said. “Whatever happens, we still understand that the season is still pretty young, and there is a great amount of work yet to be had.”
Dan can be reached at [email protected] and @danescalona77.