Illini Advance to Blue Gray Title Match
The University of Illinois men's tennis team took one more step to a tournament title today, as the No. 2 Illini defeated No. 19 Texas A&M, 4-2, in the semifinals of the Blue Gray Classic in Montgomery, Ala. Top-seeded Illinois will face second-seeded Southern Methodist, the nation's No. 10 team, in the championship match on Sunday at noon.
"This tournament has been a true test for our program, to compete outdoors against some of the best teams in the nation," said Head Coach Craig Tiley. "Texas A&M, like most top teams, has been playing outdoors for a while now so it's a good sign for our guys to be playing so well. We are proving that Illinois is not just an indoor team. We are a top national program that will make noise the rest of the year, indoors or outdoors."
The Illini claimed an early 1-0 advantage by winning the doubles point, thanks to a historic victory by Oliver Freelove. The UI senior paired with Cary Franklin at No. 1 doubles to upset the top-ranked doubles team in the country in Texas A&M's Shuon Madden and Dumitry Caradima, 8-5. Freelove/Franklin are ranked No. 9 nationally and improve to 19-7 on the season, 11-1 in all dual matches.
With the victory, Freelove becomes the first player in Illinois history to crack the century mark in both singles and doubles wins. The England-native is now an amazing 100-35 (.741) in doubles and 103-58 (.640) in singles in Orange and Blue.
Freelove's excellence carried over into singles play, as the No. 4 player in the country routed Madden, ranked 30th nationally, 6-1, 6-2, at the No. 1 position. Freshman Mike Kosta also came up big, rising to the No. 5 position for the first time this season and earning a 6-4, 7-5, win over Keith From.
The clinching win came from a surprise source, as senior Arnaud Lantin delivered his second win in as many days by pulling out a 6-2, 7-6(3), victory over Julan Aramburo at No. 6 singles. Lantin saw his first dual-match action of the year on Friday against Tulane, earning a straight-set win before his clincher against Texas A&M today.
Illinois improves to 13-1 on the season, their best start since opening at 12-0 in 1955. In just their third year in this prestigious tournament, the Illini advance to the title match of the Blue Gray Classic for the first time in school history. This tourney featured seven of the top 30 teams in the country and concludes on Sunday.