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Kentucky Kernel

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No. 5 Kentucky men’s tennis blows past Harvard in NCAA Sweet Sixteen

Christian Kantosky

No. 5 Kentucky men’s tennis took another step closer to its championship dreams, advancing to the quarterfinals with a 4-2 win over No. 12 Harvard on Saturday.

The Wildcats started the day off right by earning the doubles point, something they did not do against Illinois in the second round.

Senior Joshua Lapadat looks to hit the ball at the Hillary J. Boone Tennis Facility on Friday, May 3, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky. He wins his sets 6-3 and 6-1 respectively. (Christian Kantosky)

After Taha Baadi and Jack Loutit won 6-4 on court two, No. 4 Joshua Lapadat and JJ Mercer won their first match of the tournament together to give the Cats the 1-0 lead.

To begin singles play, Eli Stephenson shot out the gate with a 6-2 win in his first set.

No. 28 Baadi took his first set against No. 15 Cooper Williams before Charlelie Cosnet and Loutit also won their first sets.

Despite a hot start, Jaden Weekes couldn’t seem to shake his opponent, going down quickly with a 6-0, 6-2 loss, tying up the match.

At this point, No. 80 Lapadat had dropped his first set 7-5, and Baadi trailed 5-2 in his second set but courts four through six continued to fight, all capable of earning a point for the Wildcats.

Stephenson, the breakout freshman with a new 17-1 singles record, then earned the Cats a point on court six before Cosnet managed to force a tiebreaker in the second set, going on to win 7-5 and give Kentucky a 3-1 match lead.

Loutit would go on to lose his second set 6-3, putting the pressure on the freshman for yet another big finish if the top courts did not perform.

Lapadat, moments after Baadi tied Williams 3-3 in the third set, lost on court two to make the match score 3-2, but with the help of the electric Kentucky crowd, Baadi managed to score three straight points and win the match for the Wildcats.

The team rushed him with excitement and the crowd exploded, all while Coach Cedric Kauffmann waved a white towel and ran towards the players.

After the match, Baadi reflected on his clutch performance.

“It was amazing,” said Baadi. “To end your career, your college career, with a match like this, there’s nothing I could wish more for.” 

The Wildcats will travel to the host site in Stillwater, Oklahoma, for the rest of the tournament, where they will face No. 4 TCU on Thursday, May 16, at 2:30 p.m. ET in the quarterfinals. 

“As much as we’re happy to get this win,” Baadi said. “We’re not satisfied.”

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