URBANA, April 19, 2019 (Press Release)
The No. 15 Fighting Illini men’s tennis team are on the road to close out the regular season. Illinois will travel to the North Star state to face the Minnesota Gophers. Last season, the Orange and Blue easily won against the Gophers, 6-1, on Senior Day. Alex Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi clinched the doubles point, 6-4 over Felix Corwin and Josip Krstanovic. Zeke Clark extended his winning streak to nine matches with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Vlad Lobak at the No. 5 position. Chakravarthi sealed the match victory for Illinois, 6-3, 6-4 on court six. The Illini lead the overall series, 42-33.
The Illini will conclude the regular season in Wisconsin against the Badgers. Dating back to 2011, the Illini are on an eight-match winning streak against the Badgers. Last season, the Illini came back in singles play to win the match, 5-2. Aleks Kovacevic clinched the match for Illinois with a gritty, 6-4, 7-5 win on court four. Illinois leads the overall series: 59-29.
Scouting the Opposition
- Minnesota (15-6): Geoff Young is in his 13th season as the head coach of the Minnesota men’s tennis program… Out of his 13 seasons, Young has led the Gophers to the NCAA Tournament nine times… During the 2016-17 season, Young recorded his 200thcareer victory when the Gophers defeated Middle Tennessee State (2/17), 6-1… For three seasons (2008-11, 2014-15), the Gophers won the school’s award for the most community service hours by a men’s sport… Last season, Minnesota made another NCAA Tournament with a Sweet Sixteen spot… The Minnesota Gophers welcome freshmen duo, Dylan Heap and Sebastian Vile, to the squad this season.
- Wisconsin (9-10): In his fourth season as the Wisconsin men’s tennis head coach, former All-Big Ten, Badger standout, Danny Westerman, has returned his alma mater to the national stage… Westerman has built a record of 46-29 (.613), leading the Badgers to the 2017 NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years… Under Westerman, the Badgers have won at least 14 matches in each of his three seasons at the helm, including a mark of 18-8 in 2016-17, the eighth-highest single-season win total in program history. Since 2010, the Badgers also finished with the team’s highest mark with seven conference wins… Under Westerman, the Badgers have earned 13 wins over ranked teams, highlighted by a 4-2 victory over No. 19 Northwestern in 2017… The Badgers welcome freshmen trio, Daniel Nuzhny, Jared Pratt, and Lenard Soha, to the squad this season.
Conference Opponents Bring B1G Play
Last season, the Orange and Blue had an impressive 10-1 Big Ten record, only falling to 2018 NCAA runner-up finishers, the Ohio State Buckeyes. This season, the Illini are 8-1 in conference play.
Without any seniors, juniors Aleks Kovacevic, Zeke Clark, Vuk Budic, Gui Gomes, and Noe Khlif have provided leadership for the Fighting Illini men’s tennis program this season. Kovacevic has impressed all season with a 21-2 Big Ten singles career record, including a 14-2 record on the season. The New York Native has also boasted a 14-7 Big Ten doubles career record. In Singles Big Ten play, Clark has gone undefeated during his sophomore and junior year with a 12-0 record. Overall, Clark has recorded an 18-6 record in singles conference play. Khlif has come on strong this year, with a 4-1 singles Big Ten record. Khlif’s overall career conference record is 10-5 in Big Ten play. Budic has recorded a 10-1 Big Ten singles record, including 4-0 in his sophomore year and current season. Due to an impressive 5-1 Big Ten record during his freshman year, Budic holds a 12-4 Big Ten doubles career record. Gomes also holds a winning doubles conference record of 9-6, including a 5-2 record this season.
Sophomore sensations Alex Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi have also impressed during conference play. The Sophomore tandem have gone 7-4 in doubles play last season, while winning their first Big Ten match of the 2019 Spring season against No. 32 Simen Bratholm and Nick Brookes of Northwestern. Brown has also paired up with Kovacevic this season. The duo has posted a perfect 5-0 record in Big Ten play. Brown went 8-1 in singles conference play last season, while earning a 5-1 record this season. With a regular season under his belt, freshman Keenan Mayo is 5-2 in conference singles play.
In the Rankings
As a team, the Illini sit in No. 15. Individually, two Illini are ranked in singles play. Junior Aleks Kovacevic remains in the top-10 at No. 8, while sophomore Alex Brown sits in 54th. Illini duo Brown and Kovacevic break into the doubles rankings at No. 46, while sophomore duo Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi steadily move to No. 39.
Next Serve: Postseason Begins at Big Ten Tournament
With the regular season coming to a close this weekend, the Orange and Blue will head to the Big Ten Tournament in Ann Arbor, Mich. from April 25-28. Illinois has earned 18 Big Ten titles in program history, including when the Illini hosted the event in 2015. Last season, Illinois finished as the runner-up after falling to Ohio State, 4-0.