No. 15 Illinois Opens Big Ten Play With No. 45 Northwestern And Indiana

Fighting Illini Tennis (photo: twitter)

URBANA, March 6, 2019 (Press Release)

The No. 11 Fighting Illini men’s tennis team returns home to commence Big Ten play for a two-match homestand beginning with the Northwestern Wildcats on Friday, March 8 at 6 p.m. CT. Last season, the Illini swept the Wildcats 4-0 in Evanston, Ill. Illinois leads the overall series 67-38-2.

On Sunday afternoon, the Illini compete against the Indiana Hoosiers at Noon CT. Since 2013, Illinois has a seven-game winning streak against Indiana, leading the overall series 47-44. Last season, Illinois defeated the Hoosiers, 5-2. The Illini tandem of Alex Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi clinched the doubles point, while Aleks Kovacevic clinched the match, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 over Keivon Tabrizi.

Marketing Promos and Giveaways – Hawaiian Night and Breakfast at Atkins

Bringing Aloha to Champaign with a Hawaiian Night theme as the Illini host in-state rival, Northwestern on Friday at 6 p.m. CT. We will also be making a twist on an American favorite by providing Hawaiian pizza.

Hosting Indiana Hoosiers, the Breakfast at Atkins theme will allow fans to enjoy some breakfast on the court. The Illini Net Nuts will be hosting a student pickle ball tournament at the conclusion of the match, in which the winning team will win a $100 Joe’s gift card.

Scouting the Opposition

No. 45 Northwestern (9-7): In his 11th season as Northwestern’s head coach, Arvid Swan has taken the Wildcats to new heights with a 173-113 record, including a 90-37 mark the last four years… Swan has guided Northwestern to six consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and seven overall… Swan has garnered honors for his coaching efforts including 2014 and 2016 ITA Midwest Region Coach of the Year… Last season, the Wildcats picked up Big Ten wins against Indiana and Michigan State… Led by veterans Nick Brookes and Chris Ephron, while freshman Simen Bratholm has already made an impact to this year’s squad.

Indiana (7-6): Entering his fifth season with the Indiana Hoosiers, Jeremy Wurtzman, was named the 15th head coach of the Hoosier men’s tennis program on Wednesday December 10, 2014… During the 2015-16 season, Wurtzman guided the Hoosiers to a fifth-place finish in the Big Ten Conference standings as they won their last five conference matches of the season… Indiana posted 10 home wins in 2017, while posting a 7-4 conference record in 2018… Led by junior Antonio Cembellin, the young squad welcomes four fantastic freshmen for the 2018-19 season.

Kovacevic Rolling in 2019 with Weekly Conference Honor

Junior Aleks Kovacevic also picked up the Orange and Blue’s first weekly conference honor when he was named the Big Ten Tennis Athlete of the Week, as announced by the league office on Jan. 22. Kovacevic went 4-2 overall in the Illini’s last tune-up tournament, the MLK Invitational in Atlanta, Ga. The junior swept his matches for the first day of competition against Georgia and host Georgia Tech. His run was highlighted by an upset win over then No. 2 Jan Zielinski (Georgia), defeating the Bulldog 6-2, 7-6(4).

Also emerging as a leader for the Orange and Blue during dual-match season, Kovacevic has recorded a perfect 7-0 dual match singles record with wins over four ranked opponents in 2019. The New York native’s seven-match singles winning streak began on Feb. 1 vs. Duke. Kovacevic has won four of those matches in straight sets with one involving a tiebreaker. The junior helped clinched the victory at Notre Dame, defeating No. 74 Richard Ciamarra, 6-7, 6-2, 6-4. In doubles, Kovacevic and freshman Keenan Mayo have clinched three doubles points this season.

The conference honor marks the first time the New York native has won this award and first for the Illini men’s tennis squad this season. The last Illini men’s tennis player to earn this accomplishment was Illini alum and current professional tennis player, Aleks Vukic (April 24, 2018).

In the Rankings

As a team, the Illini are ranked at No. 15. Individually, three Illini ranked in singles play. Junior Aleks Kovacevic sits in the top-15 with a No. 14 rank due to an undefeated 7-0 record in singles dual match play. Sophomore Alex Brown remains in the top 35 at No. 33, while junior Zeke Clark is ranked at No. 113.

Illini Lineup Returns

Illinois returns eight players from the 2017-18 squad, including six letterwinners. Without any seniors on the team, the Illini juniors Vuk Budic, Zeke Clark, Gui Gomes, Noe Khlif, and Aleks Kovacevic will provide leadership and guidance for the team. With a year under their belt, sophomore duo Alex Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi will add depth to the Illini lineup.


Head Coach Brad Dancer adds four freshmen to the program – Lucas Horve (Forsyth, Ill.), Keenan Mayo (Long Beach, Calif.), Siphosothando Montsi (East London, South Africa), and early enrollee Alex Bancila (Lake Bluff, Ill.). Local five-star recruits, Horve and Bancila, along with Mayo and Montsi are expected to make an immediate impact for the Illini after successful ITF junior careers.

Next Serve

The No. 15 Fighting Illini men’s tennis team closes its non-conference slate against two ranked teams in the Sunshine State.

Illinois will start its Florida tour in Gainesville against the No. 9 Florida Gators on Wednesday, March 20 at 1 p.m. CT. The Illini make its return to Gator Nation after seven years, leading the overall series, 11-7. Associate Head Coach Marcos Asse is a former gator that contributed to the 2000 SEC Championship team.

For the first time in program history, the Orange and Blue will face No. 49 UCF in a contest on Friday, March 22 at 11 a.m. CT in Orlando, Fla.