Kopinski, Guignon wrap up ITA All-American qualifying

By Christopher Kennedy

At last year’s ITA All-American Championships, the doubles team of Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon lost their first match and then went on a tear to win the tournament’s consolation bracket. This year, the pair lost their first match and made it to the consolation bracket finals again. This time though, they came up short in the consolation finals.

The Illinois men’s tennis team didn’t have a great performance at the ITA All-American Championships, but there were bright spots for Illinois in its first national championship tournament of the year.

It was Kopinski and Guignon’s first tournament playing together this year, and they entered as the No. 2 doubles team in the country. There was no time to dwell on preseason rankings though, as the pair faced off against several of the nation’s other top doubles teams in the tournament. Kopinski and Guignon took on the No. 6, 9, 15, 17, and 22 ranked teams over the span of a few days. The pair fell to No. 6 Nick Chappell and Will Stein of TCU in the consolation finals. Head coach Brad Dancer said that the two never really clicked this weekend.

“At the very end of yesterday’s match against North Carolina State, they started to get it going, but that was a ten-minute window,” Dancer said. “One of the things they do best in my opinion is they win the intangibles. I did not think they were winning the intangibles this weekend. I think they are a little bit rusty, just in terms of doubles cleanliness … typical doubles things that they usually do pretty well; they were not at their best yet.”

On the singles side, Kopinski made it to the round of 16. He improved on his performance from two weeks ago at the Olympia Fields/Fighting Illini Invite. His elimination came at the hands of the No. 1 player in the country, Julian Lenz of Baylor, who beat Kopinski 6-7(2), 6-2, 7-5. Kopinski said he felt he was able to start each point the way he wanted to and control the tempo of the match. He had Lenz on the ropes at some points, but wasn’t able to close things.

“I kind of took it to him in the beginning, second set, he played some good points … in the third, had my chances,” Kopinski said. “I think it was a pretty physical match from both sides, so he started feeling it physically and I kind of missed a few shots.”

The other Illini in the tournament’s main draw, No. 6 Jared Hiltzik, fell in the second round to Nicolas Alvarez of Duke, 6-2, 5-7, 4-6. Dancer said Hiltzik had a rough match and had some chances to win, but will be able to learn from the defeat.

“I think he needs to win some ugly matches right now. That’s the number one thing I feel like,” Dancer said. “It’s not going to be about prettiness, it’s going to be about grittiness and toughness. And he just needs some tough, gritty wins and when he gets those, he’ll be fine.”

Chris can be reached at [email protected].