LEXINGTON, Ky. The eight-seeded Kentucky men’s tennis team (24-7) celebrated one of their biggest wins of the past decade on Saturday afternoon, knocking out Wake Forest (33-7) No. 9 in the super regional round of the NCAA Tournament. at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex by a score of 4-2.
With the win, the Wildcats advance to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the fifth time in program history and will face the top-seeded TCU on Thursday in Champaign, Illinois. UK will be looking for their first semi-final appearance in school history.
We’ve worked too hard to lose games like this so I’m really glad all the boys are out,” said Millen Hurrion. My last game here in Lexington, dropping like that is something I’ll remember for a long time.
The match started in doubles with the visiting Demon Deacons quickly taking the lead. Liam Draxl and Alexandre Leblanc managed to keep their fight against Ben Draper and Matthew Thomson close but failed to find a victory, losing 6-4. After taking a 3-2 lead, Gabriel Diallo and Joshua Lapadat fell behind Siddhant Bianthia and Jakob Schnaitter, losing 6-3 as Wake Forest grabbed the doubles point.
Although they were down 1-0, the Wildcats weren’t phased. The team then began playing singles in a dominant fashion, winning five of the first six sets.
Draxl, ranked fourth, led the way in the UK, leveling the match at one apiece after securing a masterful straight-sets 6-3, 6-1 win over Jurabek Karimov. The junior started the second set winning five straight and capped off his match by placing a ball just out of Karimov’s reach to put the first point on the board for Kentucky.
Wake Forest took another lead winning on court four. Francois Musitelli trailed after losing the first set and entered the second, but couldn’t overcome Rrezart Cungu, conceding the match 6-3, 7-5.
Kentuckys JJ Mercer edged Banthia in the first set, winning the tiebreaker, and came alive in the second to once against to tie the game. The Huntington, West Virginia natives’ seventh win of the season came at a key moment, claiming court six in a 7-6 (7-3), 6-1 finish to make it 2-2 .
With courts two, three and five in tight third sets, the weather delayed the match. Lightning was detected near the Boone Complex, putting the teams in contention for a place in the Elite Eight on hiatus for a total of 77 minutes.
Game 21 Diallos was stopped at 6-2, 3-6, 5-1 in the third with the game at 30-40 when the teams were told to head to the dressing rooms. With his powerful serve, the Montreal native earned two straight points and won his match, helping the Wildcats take a 3-2 lead.
Team captain No. 83 Hurrion contested two tight sets, both ending in scores of 6-4, separating them with No. 61 Eduardo Nava. The fifth-year held a 4-2 lead heading into the break and took two straight games to win the Kentucky game in a 6-4, 4-6, 6-3 final.
Kentucky will make its fifth all-time appearance in the Elite Eight, having last come in 2011. The Wildcats wrap up their season at the Boone Complex with a 14-2 home record.
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