No. 1 Draxl prevails, Paražinskaitė falls in singles opening round


Akvilė Paražinskaitė gets ready for her teammate to serve during the University of Kentucky vs. Tennessee women’s tennis match on Sunday, March 28, 2021, at Hillary J. Boone Tennis Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

After exiting early in the NCAA Tennis Championships as a team, the Kentucky Wildcats would send six players down to the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Florida to try and claim victory in the men’s and women’s singles and doubles tournaments.

Representing the women’s team for the Wildcats was grad student Akvilė Paražinskaitė, who would be competing in both the singles and doubles tournaments. The Cats court one star finished the season with an impressive 17-7 singles record, including six wins over nationally ranked opponents, earning her an at-large bid in the singles bracket for the first time in her college career.

Alongside Paražinskaitė in doubles competition is freshman Fiona Arrese. The tandem earned the No. 1 overall seed in the doubles tournament after compiling a 17-4 record as a pair this Spring, including six wins over nationally ranked tandems.

The men’s team would send four Wildcats down to Orlando, headlined by star player and the No. 1 overall seed in the singles tournament, Liam Draxl. Draxl did it all this Spring, finishing with a 21-2 record in singles competition, defeating ten ranked opponents along the way, including two wins over opponents who were the No. 1 player in the country at the time.

Two Wildcats would earn at-large bids into the singles bracket in Gabriel Diallo and Millen Hurrion. Diallo finished the spring with a 14-7 singles record, including four wins against ranked foes, not to be outdone by Hurrion’s record of 16-4 with three ranked wins of his own.

Diallo would also compete in the doubles tournament alongside team captain Cesar Bourgois. The pair compiled a 14-9 record this Spring, good enough to earn a bid in the doubles bracket.

The round of 64 in the singles tournaments began on Sunday, while the doubles action will begin tomorrow.

Before the matches begun, UK announced that Millen Hurrion would be scratched from the tournament due to injury. Luckily for the Cats, this won’t be the last we see of the senior out of Weymouth, England, as Hurrion still has another year of eligibility and will return to Lexington for one more run at the top.

Paražinskaitė and Draxl both found themselves amidst the early slate on day one.

Paražinskaitė, the Vilnius, Lithuania native would take on North Carolina’s Alexa Graham while Draxl found himself matched up against John McNally, a senior out of Ohio State.

It would unfortunately be a quick match for Paražinskaitė, as she fell to Graham 6-1, 6-0, putting an abrupt end to her singles campaign. She will return to action tomorrow as her and Arrese begin their climb to the top of the doubles mountain by facing Wake Forest’s Brooke Killingsworth and Anna Brylin.

Draxl’s match would be anything other than quick. Matched up against John McNally, a senior from Ohio State, Draxl would struggle to get in gear early, as McNally swiped the first set from the sophomore 6-2.

Draxl would respond in the second set with a commanding 6-1 win, bringing the first-round match down to the third set. After being pushed to the brink of elimination, Draxl would win a game tiebreak to even the third set at six, pushing the match to a final tiebreak to decide who would advance to the round of 32. After being down 4-2, Draxl would rattle off five consecutive points to earn the gutsy victory over a game opponent in McNally, winning 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4).

14th ranked Diallo would also find himself in a three-set bout in round one, facing off against Tulane senior Hamish Stewart. Diallo would claim the first set by a score of 6-4, before dropping the second set after a tiebreaker. The Montreal native would be unphased and come right back at Stewart, winning the third set comfortably and winning the match 6-4, 6-7 (4-7,) 6-3.

The two Canadians will go right back to work in round two on Monday, as Draxl will face off against Notre Dame’s Axel Nefve, while Diallo will take on an SEC foe in Tennessee’s Martim Prata.

After the completion of singles competition, Diallo will return for his first-round doubles matchup with Bourgois, as the No. 6 pair will take on Notre Dame’s Nefve and Tristan McCormick.

All singles and doubles tournament action is available to watch through the TennisOne app as the Wildcats make their attempts at bringing a championship back to Lexington.