Hiltzik, duo of Guignon and Kopinksi fall short in main draw of ITA All-Americans

Illinois men’s tennis sophomore Jared Hiltzik enjoyed success this weekend against some of the top competition in the nation in the first three rounds of the ITA All-American in Tulsa, Okla. Hiltzik’s run of success ended abruptly in a straight sets loss to No. 12 Mitchell Frank of Virginia — the eventual champion in the main draw. The loss kept him from receiving an automatic berth in the ITA Indoor Nationals.

Prior to his fourth-round loss, Hiltzik had won three consecutive matches in straight sets to get to the match against Frank. He opened the main draw with a win over UNLV’s Ace Matias (7-5, 6-3). Hiltzik followed up with a pair of victories against Fred Saba of Duke (6-2, 6-3) and No. 7 Ray Sarmiento of Southern California (6-2, 6-2).

“Jared showed a lot of strengths throughout the week,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “For the most part, he composed himself very well and played clean tennis against some tough competitors. He still needs to improve in a couple areas, but he’s motivated in stepping up his play each week.”

On the doubles side of the main draw, the Illini did not see the same level of success. The duo of juniors Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon were eliminated in the first round of the main draw after a defeat at the hands of Gonzales Austin and Ryan Lipman of Vanderbilt.

Kopinski said the serve contributed to their first-round exit, an area which has been a point of inconsistency across all doubles duos for the Illini. He also admitted he and Guignon were not very sharp, given it was the first time since May the pair played together.

In the doubles consolation bracket, the pair surged past the field and ended up winning the bracket — which guaranteed the duo and automatic berth in the ITA Indoor Championships held next month.

“The more we play together in the consolation we began to find our groove and feel more comfortable playing together,” Kopinski said. “While it was nice to win the consolation, we definitely have bigger expectations in mind and will prepare better to meet them in the upcoming events.”

While Dancer was clearly disappointed that the pair were eliminated so quickly in the main draw, he said he realizes it is only a matter of time before they will break out, given the track record of success the duo has seen.

“The great thing about a disappointing performance so early in the season is we have time to understand what went wrong and how to fix it,” he said. “I know Ross and Tim were looking to play better, but we saw steady improvement throughout the weekend in the consolation bracket. They are two of the most experienced guys on this team, so I’m confident they will turn things around.”

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

Editor’s note: A previous version of this article was published with a fabricated quote attributed to Illinois men’s tennis player Jared Hiltzik. The quote has since been removed from the article.