No. 14 Illinois Welcomes Marquee Opponents For Final Homestand

Fighting Illini Tennis

URBANA, April 12, 2019 (Press Release)

The No. 14 Fighting Illini men’s tennis team closes their home slate with some big marquee matches next weekend at the Atkins Tennis Center. On Friday, the Illini face a rising Penn State that is ranked third in the Big Ten behind No. 2 Ohio State and Illinois. The Orange and Blue have won the last four matches against the Nittany Lions, including two quarterfinals during the Big Ten Tournament. Illinois leads the overall series 32-5.

On Sunday, the Illini will have their home finale against the reigning ITA Indoors Champions, No. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes. In 2015, the Orange and Blue swept the Buckeyes, 4-0, to win the 2015 Big Ten Tournament in front of the home crowd at Atkins. Despite the Scarlet and Gray’s recent success, the Illini lead the all-time series 60-49-1.

Marketing Promos and Giveaways – Breakfast at Atkins

Hosting Penn State on Friday night, hungry fans will be able to enjoy some pizza and buffalo wings. Sunday’s afternoon match against No. 2 Ohio State will conclude our last Breakfast at Atkins theme for the season. Fans will be able to enjoy some breakfast on the court.

Scouting the Opposition

  • Penn State (15-6): Jeff Zinn is in his eighth year as the head coach of the Penn State men’s tennis program… Coach Zinn was named top ten most winningest coaches in Division 1 Men’s Tennis with a 124-92 at Penn State and 505-351 in 29 years of coaching… He has led the team to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament twice (2014, 2016)… In 2014 and 2016, the Nittany Lions reached an ITA national ranking of No. 16 during regular season play, its highest in program history… During the 2014 season, Penn State finished with a final NCAA ranking of No. 24 and No. 3 in the Big Ten, which are both program bests… In 2017, Penn State advanced to the quarterfinals of the Big Ten Championships after dominating Purdue in the tournament… The Nittany Lions are led by All-Big Ten honorees Constant De La Bassetiere and Christian Lakoseljac.
  • No. 2 Ohio State (22-2): In his 20th season, Ty Tucker became the head coach of the Ohio State men’s tennis program in 1999 and has turned Buckeye tennis into an elite program that has maintained consistent success, shattered program records and contended for Big Ten and national titles… Tucker is Ohio State’s and the Big Ten’s All-Time winningest men’s tennis coach with a 577-86 (.870) Ohio State and career record and 192-12 (.941) Big Ten record… Under Tucker’s guidance, the Scarlet and Gray have won 13 consecutive Big Ten regular-season titles (2006-18) and 10 of the last 12 conference tournament crowns… In addition, the Buckeyes’ ran off an astounding 200 consecutive wins in Columbus, which was the longest home win streak in Division I sports history… Tucker has garnered many accolades including 2009 National Coach of the Year, 13-time Big Ten Coach of the Year, and seven-time ITA Midwest Region Coach of the Year… Last season, the Buckeyes earned their third consecutive and 13th overall Big Ten title and finished as runner-up at the NCAA Championship, falling to Wake Forest, 4-2… The Scarlet and Gray are led by All-American Martin Joyce, All-Big Ten honorees JJ Wolf and John McNally, and NCAA All-Tournament Team honorees, Hunter Tubert and Kyle Seelig. The squad also welcomes freshmen duo Andrew Lutschaunig and James Trotter.

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 with two at the No. 1 singles position and one at No. 1 doubles position against Florida, UCF, and Purdue.

On March 20, 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 on March 24. 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.

Kovacevic currently sits at No. 6 in the ITA Rankings with a perfect 14-0 in singles play, including eight victories over ranked opponents during the dual match season. The junior stands 12-0 overall on the season at No. 1 singles position and has an undefeated 5-0 record when participating in three sets during singles play.

B1G Implications

No. 14 Illinois and No. 2 Ohio State remain the only teams in the conference with unblemished Big Ten records. This Sunday will decide who reigns supreme during the Big Ten regular season as the Illini host the Buckeyes on Sunday afternoon at Noon CT in Atkins Tennis Center.

For the past 13 seasons, the Buckeyes have earned the Big Ten regular-season title (2006-18), while winning 10 of the last 12 conference tournament crowns. Ever since Ohio State’s emergence, the Illini shared the regular-season with Scarlet and Gray in 2015, while earning seven runner-up finishes during the regular season under head coach Brad Dancer. In the Dancer era, the Illini won the Big Ten tournament crown twice (2012, 2015), including one held at Atkins Tennis Center in front of the home crowd.

Under Illinois Athletics Hall of Fame inductee, Craig Tiley, the Orange and Blue earned eight a piece for Big Ten regular-season and tournament titles. Last season, the Orange and Blue had an impressive 10-1 Big Ten record, only falling to 2018 NCAA runner-up finishers, Ohio State. 

Conference Opponents Bring B1G Play

Last season, the Orange and Blue had an impressive 10-1 Big Ten record, only falling to Big Ten powerhouse, the Ohio State Buckeyes. This season, the Illini are undefeated in conference play with a 5-0 record.

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 an undefeated 21-0 Big Ten singles career record, including a 14-0 record on the season. The New York Native has also boasted a 13-7 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 a 16-6 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 an 8-1 Big Ten singles record, including a 4-0 record during his sophomore year. Due to an impressive 5-1 Big Ten record during his freshman year, Budic holds a 12-2 Big Ten doubles career record. Gomes also holds a winning doubles conference record of 9-4, including an undefeated 5-0 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. Both Brown and Chakravarthi went 8-1 in singles conference play last season, while remaining undefeated this season. With seven conference matches under his belt, freshman Keenan Mayo is undefeated in conference singles play with a 5-0 record.

In the Rankings

As a team, the Illini moved to No. 14. Individually, two Illini are ranked in singles play. Junior Aleks Kovacevic earned a career-high singles ranking at No. 6 due to an undefeated 14-0 record in singles play and eight ranked wins in 2019. Sophomore Alex Brown remains in the top 50 at No. 48. Sophomore duo Brown and Caleb Chakravarthi move up to No. 41 in the doubles rankings.

Next Serve

The No. 14 Fighting Illini men’s tennis are on the road for the regular season finale. 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 leads the overall series, 42-33.

The Orange and Blue 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. The Orange and Blue lead the overall series: 59-29.