URBANA, April 1, 2019 (Press Release)
The No. 14 Illini men’s tennis team extends their winning streak to 25 matches over the Hawkeyes on Sunday afternoon at Atkins Tennis Center. Illinois defeated Iowa 5-1 to extend the overall series, 75-23. The Orange and Blue go undefeated in Big Ten play (5-0), while maintaining a 11-6 overall record on the season.
“Love getting another win,” said head coach Brad Dancer. “I thought Zeke (Clark) buckled down really well during his second set and was mentally in the space where he needed to be.”
Battled tested during doubles play, Illinois picked up the doubles point for the ninth time this season. Iowa picked up the first point on court two. The duo of redshirt sophomore Gui Gomes and junior Vuk Budic are now on a three-game winning streak after defeating Iowa’s Nikita Snezhko and Joe Tyler, 6-4. The pair are also 3-0 in conference double play. In a back and forth battle on court one, junior Aleks Kovacevic and sophomore Alex Brown clinched the doubles point after winning the tiebreaker, 7-5.
In dominating fashion, freshman Keenan Mayo was the first one off the court with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Joe Tyler. Kovacevic picked up his 12th consecutive win, defeating Kareen Allaf, 7-5, 6-2. The New York native remains undefeated in singles play, posting wins over six ranked opponents. Junior Zeke Clark topped Jonas Larsen to clinch the match for the Orange and Blue. The Tulsa, Okla. Native easily won the first set, 6-1, but battled during the second set to win the 7-1 tiebreaker. After Clark sealed the match, Gomes posted his fourth Big Ten singles win, defeating Piotr Smietana, 6-2, 6-4. The Frenchman maintains a 7-1 singles record on the season.
What an ending to a #B1G weekend!
— Illinois M Tennis (@IlliniMTennis) 31. März 2019
The No. 14 Fighting Illini men’s tennis team heads to the Mitten for Big Ten Play against the Michigan State Spartans and No. 21 Michigan Wolverines.
Illinois will head up to East Lansing, facing the Spartans on Saturday, April 6 at 11 a.m. CT. Dating back to 1998, the Illini have a 24-match winning streak against Michigan State, while also leading the overall series, 59-28.
Head coach Brad Dancer is a former Spartan player that reached the NCAA Doubles Championships his senior year and earned All-Big Ten honors. Dancer also begin his coaching career donning the Green and White as an assistant men’s tennis coach from 1993-98.
The following day, the Illini will head to Ann Arbor to face the third ranked team in the Big Ten, Michigan. The 2017 season was the last time Illinois earned a road win over the Wolverines. In a gritty fashion, the Orange and Blue bounced back from doubles play to win the match, 4-2.
“The reality is, we have to focus better as a team,” noted Dancer. “If we are going to be an elite team, our guys have to step up and focus during matches.”
- Illinois improves its winning streak against the Hawkeyes to 25 matches.
- The Illini still lead the all-time series against Iowa, 75-23.
- The Orange and Blue remain undefeated in Big Ten Play, 5-0, while maintaining a 11-6 overall record on the season.
- Junior Aleks Kovacevic remains undefeated with a 12-0 singles record with wins over six ranked opponents in 2019.
- Clinched the doubles point nine times this season, including four times during Big Ten play.
- Doubles pairs – Gui Gomes / Vuk Budic and Aleks Kovacevic / Alex Brown – are on a three-game winning streak and undefeated in conference play with a 3-0 record.
- Junior Zeke Clark clinched the match with a 6-1, 7-6(1) victory over Iowa’s Jonas Larsen.
- Junior Noe Khlif remains 7-1 on the season after posting a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Iowa’s Piotr Smietana.
#14 Illinois 5, Iowa 1
Singles competition: Order of Finish (4,1,5,3,6)
1. #14 Aleks Kovacevic (UI) def. Kareem Allaf (IOWA) 7-5, 6-2
2. #31 Alex Brown (UI) vs. Oliver Okonkwo (IOWA) 6-7 (2-7), 6-3, 2-0, unfinished
3. Zeke Clark (UI) def. Jonas Larsen (IOWA) 6-1, 7-6 (7-1)
4. Keenan Mayo (UI) def. Joe Tyler (IOWA) 6-1, 6-4
5. Will Davies (IOWA) def. Gui Gomes (UI) 6-3, 6-2
6. Noe Khlif (UI) def. Piotr Smietana (IOWA) 6-2, 6-4
Doubles competition: Order of finish (2,3,1)
1. Aleks Kovacevic/Alex Brown (UI) def. Oliver Okonkwo/Will Davies (IOWA) 7-6 (7-5)
2. Kareem Allaf/Jonas Larsen (IOWA) def. Zeke Clark/Noe Khlif (UI) 6-3
3. Gui Gomes/Vuk Budic (UI) def. Nikita Snezhko/Joe Tyler (IOWA) 6-4
Illinois 11-6; National ranking #14