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Kentucky Kernel

The Student News Site of University of Kentucky

Kentucky Kernel

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Kentucky men’s tennis relishes in offseason awards ahead of pivotal 2024-25 season.

Senior+Joshua+Lapadat+looks+to+hit+the+ball+at+the+Hillary+J.+Boone+Tennis+Facility+on+Friday%2C+May+3%2C+2024%2C+in+Lexington%2C+Kentucky.+He+wins+his+sets+6-3+and+6-1+respectively.
Christian Kantosky
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.

Although Kentucky men’s tennis and its incredible run in the 2023-24 season ended on a bad note, the culture in Kentucky continues to thrive.

Since the beginning of the offseason, multiple Wildcats have received awards and were recognized for their accomplished season.

Taha Baadi swings his racket during the No. 5 Kentucky vs. Illinois men’s tennis match on Saturday, May 4, 2024, at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 4-3 Photo by Brady Saylor | Staff (Christian Kantosky)

Eli Stephenson, who excelled in big moment after big moment in his freshman year, took away the Ohio Valley Regional Rookie Of The Year Award. Stephenson finished the season with a 17-1 singles record, which was one of the best winning percentages in the entire SEC. 

For the first time, the dynamic duo of Joshua Lapadat and JJ Mercer were named ITA All-Americans. Lapadat and Mercer finished the season ranked No. 5 as a pair with a 16-6 record.

Taha Baadi, now having turned pro after a successful collegiate career, was awarded the Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award, recapping his humble and respectful tendencies on and off the court.

Baadi managed to win his first pro title at the ITF M15 Santo Domingo on June 9, and will participate in several more events this summer. 

Lapadat will also look in the direction of pro play, which demonstrates the tough coaching and the taught confidence that both received at the University of Kentucky.

“The coaching staff is what brings the culture towards the team and no matter who is on the court, they keep it going,” Lapadat said when asked about the future of the program. “They love this team a lot.”

If that wasn’t proof enough, these professionals’ ”old coach” received a prestigious award as well. Head coach Cedric Kauffmann was named the ITA Ohio Valley Regional Coach Of The Year, boasting a 27-3 overall record and a SEC Championship.

While the memories of last season bring joy, all eyes have begun to look toward next season, which is one that will calls for a new look for the Wildcats, who lose team captains Baadi and Lapadat along with sophomore Christophe Clement, who transferred to Georgia Tech.

Kentucky has been active in the transfer portal and has already officially signed Martin Breysach, who attended Baylor for two years. In his sophomore season, he won 13 singles matches and participated in multiple doubles matches, going 5-1 with different partners.

The Cats’ are likely to draw even more attention from other transfers and incoming freshmen after one of the best seasons in their program’s history.

Fans should also keep an eye out for former Wildcats Liam Draxl and Gabriel Diallo, who both have serious potential to make the Olympic roster for Canada and compete for gold in the summer Olympics.

All in all, Kentucky fans have much to look forward to, including the ITA Kickoff Weekend where Kentucky will host Arizona State, Nebraska and Santa Clara as the No. 1 seed in January. 

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