Illinois men’s tennis looks to continue Big Ten success

By Brett Lerner

The Illinois men’s tennis team jumped up to No. 6 in the country after it defeated Northwestern on Sunday. This level of success is nothing new to the program but hasn’t been achieved in recent years. The No. 6 ranking is the highest the Illini have been in the polls since March 2011. 

The Illini will look to keep their winning ways going this weekend as they return home for a doubleheader Sunday. They haven’t played a home match since they took down Texas on Feb. 9. The first match is a conference matchup with Purdue, and, later in the day, they will take on Detroit Mercy.

This weekend’s matches will also be the first doubleheader of the season for Illinois, but not much is expected to change in terms of preparation. 

“I don’t think (anything changes). I think our stamina needs to be good, and we should be good. We shouldn’t have problems with that,” head coach Brad Dancer said. 

Junior Ross Guignon has been the hottest player in the Illinois lineup as of late, winning his last six singles matches. He is also half of the Illini’s top doubles squad with fellow junior Tim Kopinski; although, Guignon doesn’t think his team’s preparation will change much this weekend.

“I don’t think it changes tremendously much, but, maybe on Friday and Saturday, we’ll maybe just take it a little bit lighter as far as physicality,” Guignon said. 

With one conference opponent and one nonconference opponent Sunday, Dancer has said he doesn’t feel that much changes between the two, but the environment in Atkins Tennis Center on Sunday could be different between the two matches, especially with Purdue and Detroit Mercy trending in different directions.

Purdue is 5-1 on the season and has won its last four matches. Detroit Mercy hasn’t competed since Feb. 7 and has a 2-6 record thus far. Neither of the teams have had a common opponent with Illinois yet, but Purdue will face Northwestern in their first Big Ten match of the season on Friday before heading to Illinois. 

Purdue has kept its lineup and doubles pairings flexible this season, and there are no guarantees from Detroit Mercy following its break.

“I mean, we just need to make sure we’re physically prepared and then mentally just engaged for both matches,” Kopinski said. 

Brett can be reached at [email protected] and @blerner10.