Kentucky Edges Illinois to End Home Win Streak
The second-ranked University of Illinois men's tennis team lost its first match at home in nearly two years, as No. 13 Kentucky rallied from a 3-0 deficit to claim a 4-3 win today at the Atkins Tennis Center. The defeat marks the first home loss since 1997 and ends a 19-match home winning streak.
"We just didn't play well today," said Head Coach Craig Tiley. "We've played well all year but the results just weren't there and Kentucky's a good team. This loss is a good reality check for us and I guarantee it will help in the long run."
The Illini started out strong, sweeping all three doubles matches for the fifth consecutive contest to take a 1-0 lead. At the top spot, Illinois' third-ranked duo of Oliver Freelove and Cary Franklin tied the school record for wins in a season by routing Kentucky's pair of Hesoun/Johansson, 8-1. The Illini duo has won 13 straight matches and improves to 28-7 on the season, equalling the UI record set by the pair of Peter Bouton and Mike Meyer in 1983. At the No. 2 spot, Illinois' team of Jeff Laski and Jamal Parker are now 13-0 on the season after beating the duo of Bawono/Smid, 8-5.
Illinois remained in control as five of the six UI netters won their first set in singles. The Illini built a 3-0 advantage after Freelove and Jakub Teply rolled to straight-set wins. Teply routed Tomas Smid, 6-1, 6-2, at the No. 4 spot to nab his 30th singles win of the season, becoming just the sixth Illini in school history to break the 30-win plateau. Teply is now 30-14 on the year. Freelove won his 28th match of the season by defeating Johan Hesoun, 6-2, 6-2, at the No. 1 position.
The Wildcats rallied with two straight-set wins of their own at the Nos. 2 and 3 positions to cut the lead to 3-2. The comeback was completed as Kentucky's Nos. 5 and 6 players both came back from one set down, as Johan Grunditz earned the clinching win with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1, defeat of Illinois' Arnaud Lantin at the No. 6 position.
Illinois falls to 20-3 on the season, with each of those losses coming to a team ranked among the top 15. The Illini return to conference play next weekend, as they conclude the Big Ten regular season with matches at Michigan on Saturday, April 24, and at Michigan State on Sunday, April 25.