Liam Draxl named ITA Player of the Year


Liam Draxl returns a hit during the University of Kentucky vs. Louisiana State men’s tennis meet on Sunday, Feb. 21, 2021, at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 4-0. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Hunter Shelton

Kentucky’s new breakout superstar gets to add one more feather to his cap in what was a historic 2020-21 season for the sophomore.

Liam Draxl was named the first ITA National Player of the Year in program history on Thursday, finishing atop the final ITA Division Men’s Singles Rankings this week.

Draxl becomes the eighth Southeastern ConferenceITA Player of the Year and is one of two Wildcats to earn ITA All-America honors in singles play, alongside Gabriel Diallo. Diallo also became the seventh player in program history to earn All-America selection in both singles and doubles play in the same season, as he and César Bourgois nabbed honors in doubles.

Draxl, who has held the No. 1 spot in the ITA rankings since April 11, finished his stellar sophomore season with a 25-3 record after falling in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships singles tournament to Sam Riffice of Florida, who went on to win the tournament.

Among those 25 victories, 18 of them were against other nationally ranked players, including six ranked in the top 10, two of whom were the top-ranked player at the time. All three of Draxl’s defeats in the year came against players who finished ranked in the top five.

Diallo finished No. 20 in the final ITA rankings of the year after amassing a NCAA Championship Sweet Sixteen appearance and a 21-9 record, including six ranked wins of his own this Spring.

Diallo and Bourgois landed at No. 12 in the final ITA Doubles Rankings, the tandem fell in the opening round of 32 in the NCAA Championships doubles tournament after accumulating a 14-10 record with seven wins against ranked pairs.

Kentucky finished the year ranked as the No. 18 team in the nation and was one of just five schools to boast five players in the final ITA Singles Rankings. Accompanied by Draxl and Diallo, Millen Hurrion checked in at No. 37, Bourgois landed at No. 90 while Joshua Lapadat rounded it out for the Cats at No. 104.

Four of the five ranked players will be returning to Lexington next season, painting a bright future ahead for the Kentucky men’s tennis program.