Historic Kentucky men’s tennis season ends with loss in NCAA championship

·4 min read
Eddie Justice/UK Athletics

A historic Kentucky men’s tennis season came to an end Sunday afternoon as the Wildcats lost the NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament championship match to Virginia.

The Wildcats, making the program’s first appearance in the championship match, fell 4-0 to the Cavaliers.

UK was the No. 8 overall seed in the tournament, while Virginia was the No. 7 overall seed.

“I think we took a big, giant leap forward as a program,” said head coach Cedric Kauffmann, according to a news release on UK’s website. “In a few days, these guys will realize what they did, get back to work and come to try to do this again.”

After Saturday’s national semifinals against Ohio State — also UK’s first appearance in an NCAA Tournament semifinal — was forced indoors due to weather, Sunday’s championship match between UK and UVA was played outside at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in Champaign, Illinois.

For the fourth straight match in this NCAA Tournament run, Kentucky lost the doubles point.

The Virginia pairings of Ryan Goetz and Inaki Montes and Gianni Ross and Jeffrey von der Schulenburg prevailed against Kentucky’s pairings of Gabriel Diallo and Joshua Lapadat and Liam Draxl and Alexandre LeBlanc, respectively.

The Goetz-Montes pairing won 6-3; and Ross and von der Schulenburg won 6-1.

Unlike successful comebacks from 1-0 down that UK had against Wake Forest, TCU and Ohio State in earlier rounds of the NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats couldn’t overcome this early deficit against the Cavaliers.

In singles play for UK, J.J. Mercer, Diallo and Lapadat all suffered straight-sets defeats, with the remaining three matches featuring Liam Draxl, Millen Hurrion and Francois Musitelli all going unfinished.

By reaching the national title match, the Kentucky men’s tennis program recorded the best postseason run in team history.

The Wildcats appeared in both their first national semifinal and first national championship matches this weekend.

“We knew that this was probably the year we could do some damage,” Draxl told the Herald-Leader this month during the NCAA Tournament run. “I think we’re a really close team. These guys are my best friends, my brothers and I think it’s more enjoyable working out with them, working hard and then going to battle with them. I think our culture is very good and we just thrive in it and we all become better tennis players.”

With their NCAA Tournament performance, the Wildcats became the first No. 8 seed to make the championship match since 2009.

UK reached the championship match of both postseason tournaments it participated in this season.

Kentucky knocked off Arkansas and Auburn to reach the championship match of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, which it lost to Florida.

UK defeated DePaul, Northwestern, Wake Forest, TCU and Ohio State to reach the NCAA Tournament finals before losing to Virginia.

This was the second meeting this season between Virginia and UK, as Virginia also defeated UK 4-2 in late March in Lexington.

UK finishes the season with a 26-8 overall record. A pair of Wildcats, Draxl and Musitelli, were named to the NCAA Championship All-Tournament Team.

“I think we took a big, giant leap forward as a program,” UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said Sunday. “In a few days, these guys will realize what they did, get back to work and come to try to do this again.”

Singles tournament

Despite losing the national title match to Virginia, UK sends both Diallo and Draxl to the NCAA Men’s Tennis Singles Tournament.

Diallo and Draxl were both at-large selections to that tournament, which started Monday in Champaign.

Both Diallo and Draxl played in the singles tournament last year, with Diallo reaching the Sweet 16 while Draxl, then the No. 1 seed, became the first UK player to reach the Final Four since 2012.

Both players were first-team All-SEC selections this season.

Draxl is the No. 4 overall seed for this year’s singles tournament.

Just like in dual match competition, matches in the NCAA Singles Tournament are played in a best-of-three-sets format.

No-ad scoring and a seven-point tiebreaker (first to seven points, must win by two points) at six-games-all will be used for all matches.

Diallo was to begin tournament play at 6:30 p.m. Monday against Baylor’s Adrian Boitan, the No. 5 seed in the tournament.

Draxl was to begin at 7 p.m. Monday against Wake Forest’s Eduardo Nava.

All matches in the tournament will be live streamed on the TennisONE app. The app is free to download on the iOS and Google Play app stores and can be accessed at https://tennis.one/home.