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Key players from No. 11 Kentucky men’s tennis’ split weekend

Sydney Yonker
Kentucky senior Joshua Lapadat hits the ball during the Kentucky vs Notre Dame mens tennis match on Friday, Jan. 26, 2024, at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 4-0. Photo by Sydney Yonker | Staff

Kentucky men’s tennis hosted No. 8 Harvard on Friday, Feb. 9, inside the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex and started the weekend off with a 5-2 victory against a team the Cats don’t see often. 

Kentucky is now 6-5 all-time over Harvard.

On Sunday, Feb. 11, Kentucky traveled to Durham, North Carolina, to take on the No. 15 Duke Blue Devils where it came up short in a 4-3 finish.

With that in mind, Kernel tennis reporters Kai McClelland and Grace Brydges broke down two players to highlight from the past weekend that fought through adversity to maintain Kentucky’s impressive 7-2 season.

McClelland – Joshua Lapadat  

Looking through the lens of the season, it would be safe to say that senior Joshua Lapadat has not quite hit the ceiling that he did last year.

In his junior season, he was First-Team All-SEC, finishing 23-4 in singles, and ultimately placed No. 3 in singles and No. 2 in doubles for the ITA Indoor Nationals All-Tournament Team.

Lapadat’s senior outing thus far has resulted in a 2-4 singles record, where he failed to clinch for Kentucky against No. 15 Duke. He also is a 4-2 doubles player with partner JJ Mercer, who trailed on Sunday and went unfinished in Durham.

The duo last year went 15-6 and were ranked nationally at No. 38.

Lapadat claims that Mercer has had to do the heavy lifting for him and gives Mercer the credit for being ranked No. 44 as a pair.

”It’s been kind of a tough start because I had a back injury that lasted quite a long time before creeping into the start of the season,” Lapadat said. “That’s kind of been a stumbling block. It’s tough for JJ to completely carry me.” 

However, Lapadat and Mercer have won two matches in a row against No. 3 Virginia and No. 8 Harvard and his confidence seems to be improving. 

“It feels like we’re back now, and it’s just a lot about momentum,” Lapadat said.

As one of the few upperclassmen on the team, Lapadat cherishes his time on the court. 

“It’s more about the team,” he said. “ We’re just happy to be playing. I mean, first of all, I’m happy to finally be healthy.” 

With his increasing momentum in doubles, his singles play is still lacking compared to what the Wildcats are used to seeing from him. 

“It’s hard focusing on a doubles match and then having to kinda rest so much and it’s never easy,” Lapadat said. “You know, you kind of want to start fresh with a lot of energy, and it’s tough.” 

Lapadat doesn’t point fingers and make excuses, but instead turns to his faith.

“Honestly, my faith has helped me a lot with that (balancing doubles and singles play),” Lapadat said. “My faith is a big thing that helps me in my journey, and I ultimately want to give glory to God.”

Grace Brydges – Taha Baadi 

The team was confronted with a devastating and crucial loss on Sunday against No. 15 Duke, resulting in Kentucky’s second loss of the year. 

Taha Baadi, a fifth-year senior from Montreal, Quebec, Canada, fell to No. 47 Pedro Rodenas when late ties were turned in the other direction with Baadi ultimately dropping both sets, 7-5, 6-4.  

The disappointing loss ended Baadi’s impressive three-game win streak over ranked opponents. 

Baadi led the team with eight clinches last season, including two in the NCAA Tournament, ultimately going 3-3 against nationally ranked singles opponents last year.  

However, before the mishap in Durham, the Wildcats played No. 8 Harvard on Friday and defeated their opponents with Baadi (current SEC Player of the Week) dispensing the No. 12 singles player, 6-2, 6-4.

As Baadi continues to make a habit of winning close matches with impressive shot-making, he explained how being consistent is key.

That was a good thing about tennis is that as much as it’s hot right now, you know, there’s always so many things that you can work on and a low can come at any time, so you just gotta stay ready and work as hard,” he said.

The seasoned veteran continues to lead his young team by preparing the freshmen and keeping a good attitude on and off the court.

“We just want to keep them on their guard and on their toes and [use] tricks to make sure that they’re just doing the fundamentals right, showing up to practice and being respectful,” Baadi said. “Cheer for your brothers!”

Next up, Kentucky will take on Dayton in a doubleheader on Wednesday, Feb. 21, at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center.

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