URBANA, March 29, 2019 (Press Release)
The No. 14 Fighting Illini men’s tennis team returns home to continue Big Ten play for a two-match homestand beginning at Noon CT for both days with the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday, March 30 and the Iowa Hawkeyes on Sunday, March 31. The Illini have a perfect 7-0 record against the Cornhuskers, while they have a 24-game winning streak against the Hawkeyes including a perfect 15-0 record under Brad Dancer.
Marketing Promos and Giveaways – Youth Clinic and Breakfast at Atkins
After Saturday’s Nebraska match, learn from the best as the Illini will host its first post-match youth clinic instructed by head coach Brad Dancer and members of the Illini men’s tennis team. Held at Atkins, any kids 13 years old or younger are eligible to participate and will receive a free Illini T-shirt. For more information and to register, click here. At the match, the first 125 kids receive Illini Spandex Headbands, while pizza will also be provided to all fans.
The following day against Iowa, Illinois will host their second Breakfast at Atkins theme at Noon CT, allowing fans to enjoy some breakfast on the court.
Scouting the Opposition
- Nebraska (9-9): A rising star in collegiate coaching with strong connections to the Big Ten, Sean Maymi was announced as the new men’s tennis coach at Nebraska by Athletic Director Bill Moos on June 13, 2018… He helped the Michigan Wolverines to eight NCAA Tournament appearances in his nine seasons as an assistant and associate head coach in Ann Arbor… In 2008, Maymi was named the ITA Midwest Regional Coach of the Year after assisting Michigan’s run to the NCAA Tournament round of 16 and a No. 16 final national ranking… This past season, Maymi helped guide Michigan back to the round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament, as the Wolverines finished No. 14 in the final ITA rankings after a 22-6 season that included an 8-2 Big Ten Conference mark… The Cornhuskers are coming off an upset 4-3 road win over No. 18 Minnesota… Led by 2017 ITA Central Regional singles runner-up, Toby Boyer, Nebraska welcomes freshman duo William Gleason and Victor Moreno Lozano (brother of Alvaro, who is also on the team).
- Iowa (12-4): A former two-time NCAA All-American and three-time ITA national doubles champion at Ohio State, Ross Wilson is in his fifth season as the Mellecker Family Head Men’s Tennis Coach and sixth year with the Iowa men’s tennis program… Over the course of Wilson’s first four years as head coach, Iowa won 56 matches, a total that is ninth most over a four-year span in program history… In Wilson’s first season as head coach, Iowa amassed more wins than the previous 23 seasons, including two wins over ranked opponents and five against Big Ten competition, which are the most wins over league competition in five years… During the 2015-16, Wilson and the Hawkeyes climbed to No. 33 in the ITA rankings on March 1, 2016, its highest team ranking in program history… As a successful assistant coach, Wilson also earned 2012 ITA National Assistant Coach of the Year and ITA Central Region Assistant Coach of the Year while at nationally ranked San Diego… Last season, Wilson coached the Hawkeyes to 16 wins, a total that ties as the fourth most in a single season in program history… During the 2017-18 season, Iowa also recorded its highest ranked win in program history, winning 4-3 at No 14 Dartmouth on Feb. 24, 2018. Wilson and the Hawkeyes also registered the program’s first ever victory over the Arizona Wildcats in 14 matches… Led by Kareem Allaf and Will Davies, the Iowa Hawkeyes welcome freshmen duo Oliver Okonkwo and Nikita Snezhko.
Serving up Perfection Against the Cornhuskers
The Illini lead the overall series with a perfect 7-0 record against Nebraska including three home sweeps. All program wins against “Big Red” are under head coach Brad Dancer.
Last season, Illinois continued their winning streak against the Cornhuskers in a 6-1 victory at the Dillon Tennis Center in Lincoln, Neb. After dropping the doubles point, the Illini swept singles play to earn the victory including wins from current Illini, Alex Brown, Aleks Kovacevic, and Zeke Clark. Currently ranked at No. 386 in the ATP rankings, former Illini Aleks Vukic clinched the match for the Orange and Blue with a three-set, 6-2, 3-6, 6-1 win against Toby Boyer.
Five current Illini – juniors Aleks Kovacevic, Zeke Clark, Noe Khlif, and Vuk Budic, along sophomore Alex Brown – are all undefeated against opponents from the Nebraska Cornhuskers.
Rolling High Against the Hawkeyes
With a 24-game winning streak against the Hawkeyes, Illinois leads the overall series 74-23, include a perfect 15-0 record under Brad Dancer.
Last season, Illinois continued their winning streak against the Hawkeyes in a 5-2 victory in Iowa City, Iowa. After dropping the doubles point, the Illini came storming back in singles play. Zeke Clark gave Illinois its first lead, defeating Jonas Larsen, 6-4, 6-4 on court five. Aleks Kovacevic came from behind with a three-set win on court three to push the Illini advantage to 3-1. Vuk Budic clinched the Illinois win on court six with a 7-6(8), 6-2 victory over Will Davies.
Three current Illini juniors – juniors Aleks Kovacevic, Noe Khlif, and Vuk Budic – are all undefeated in singles and doubles play against opponents from the Iowa Hawkeyes.
Make that Two for Kovacevic
Junior Aleks Kovacevic was named the Big Ten Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week for the second-time this season on March 26, as announced by the league office. The New York native posted three victories this past week with two at No. 1 singles and one at No. 1 doubles against Florida, UCF, and Purdue.
Last Wednesday, the New York native defeated Florida’s No. 15 Oliver Crawford for the second time this season, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. Facing UCF for the first time in program history, Kovacevic continued his winning ways on Friday, March 22, defeating No. 38 Gabriel Decamps, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3. This helped Illinois pick up their first program win over the Knights.
Paired with sophomore Alex Brown for the second-time this season, the duo clinched the doubles point against Purdue this past Sunday. This marked the fourth time Kovacevic has clinched the doubles point for Illinois. The 4-0 Sunday sweep against Purdue kept the team undefeated in conference play (3-0).
Kovacevic currently sits at No. 14 in the ITA Rankings with a perfect 10-0 in singles play, including six victories over ranked opponents during the dual match season. The junior stands 8-0 overall on the season at No. 1 singles and has an undefeated 4-0 record when participating in three sets during singles play.
In the Rankings
As a team, the Illini currently sit at No. 14. Individually, two Illini are ranked in singles play. Junior Aleks Kovacevic sits in the top-15 with a No. 14 rank due to an undefeated 10-0 record in singles dual match play. Sophomore Alex Brown remains in the top 35 at No. 31. Sophomore duo Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi break into the doubles rankings at No. 45 due to handing Northwestern’s then No. 32 Simen Bratholm and Nick Brookes their fourth loss of the season with a 6-4 victory.
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.