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Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky men’s tennis prepares for critical Elite Eight matchup in NCAA Tournament

Christian Kantosky
Sophomore Jaden Weekes warms up at the Hillary J. Boone Tennis Facility on Friday, May 3, 2024, in Lexington, Kentucky.

No. 5 Kentucky men’s tennis earned its spot in the Elite Eight of the NCAA National Tournament after defeating No. 12 Harvard 4-2 in Lexington over the weekend.  

With its ticket punched for Stillwater, Oklahoma, Kentucky will make the trip to take on No. 4 TCU on Thursday, with the matchup having the potential to be the most exciting of all the Elite Eight matchups.  

Kentucky’s strength most of the season has been grabbing the doubles point for the 1-0 lead, with strong singles play from courts four, five and six to finish the job. Meanwhile, TCU’s strong suit lies on its courts one, two and three in singles.

“In the last eight, every match is a battle, so we’ll come prepared, and we’ll just do what we did all year,” captain Taha Baadi said after clinching the win over Harvard.

No. 28 Baadi is 10-7 against ranked opponents in singles on the year and is set to face off with No. 13 Jack Pinnington, who is 29-8 on the season.

TCU’s roster features two top 15 singles players as No. 7 Jake Fearnley has been playing at court two singles for most of the season, with Josh Lapadat, who lost his most recent match against a ranked opponent, being tasked with taking him on.

“I think they haven’t played their best tennis yet,” head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “I hope they come in and do it, because if they do I think we’re very very dangerous.”

The Wildcats’ strongest courts this season have been the bottom three — Charlelie Cosnet has only lost three matches all season long and will be facing Sebastian Gorzny, who is looking to snap his three-match losing streak while freshmen Jack Loutit and Eli Stephenson are a combined 37-6 and have held steady at courts five and six all season long, providing a nice balance to the power TCU has up top.

Fearnley and doubles partner Pedro Vives took down the nation’s No. 1 doubles pair in the team’s win over Duke last weekend, meaning Kentucky’s top pair of No. 4 Lapadat and JJ Mercer have their work cut out for them.

If Kentucky survives TCU, it’s most likely to match up with Ohio State in the Final Four, the No. 1 team in the nation that has just one loss on the season.

The team’s leadership and experience coming from five seniors has already led them to the National Indoor Championship and is now making the Buckeyes the heavy favorite to runway with this years title.

“We respect everybody, but we fear no one,” Kauffmann said. “We compete very hard, you’re going to have to go three, four hours to get us down.”

Kentucky will look to continue its championship push and 18-match win streak against TCU this Thursday, May 16, at 2:30 p.m. ET in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

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