Men’s tennis power past Cleveland State in NCAA opener


Liam Draxl prepares to return 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

After finishing with an 18-7 (7-5 SEC) record in the regular season, the Kentucky Wildcats earned the 14th overall seed in the NCAA Tennis Championship. 

As a result, the Cats would have the luxury of staying in Lexington for the first two rounds of the tournament, playing on home court at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex, where they are undefeated at 15-0 on the season. 

UK’s first-round matchup would pit them against the Cleveland State Vikings, a conference champion on a 15-match win streaklooking to spoil the Wildcats championship bid early. 

The 18-4 (8-0 Horizon) Vikings dominated the competition in the Horizon league all season long, winning the regular season title, as well as the conference championship. 

The Wildcats would be the toughest test the Vikings have faced all season, boasting a top-ten doubles team and five ranked singles players, including the No. 1 player in the country, the electrifying Liam Draxl 

The Vikings have excelled in doubles play this season, winning 14 of their last 15 available doubles points. Kentucky came into Friday on a five-match doubles point streak of their own, all of whom were against ranked SEC opponents. 

Leading the way for UK on court one was the No. 6 tandem in the country, Cesar Bourgois and Gabriel Diallo. The dominant duo finished the regular season with a 13-7 record, including six wins over other ranked pairs. CSU would match with their own top pair in Nico Mostardi and Luke Phillips, who claim an 11-4 record as a team.  

The Vikings would get out on the front foot first thanks to Clark Bilinovich and Kade Mindry, who bested UK’s Joshua Lapadat and Alexandre Leblanc 6-3 on court three. 

Cleveland State would then go on to swipe the doubles point, after Mostardi and Phillips pulled off the major upset against No. 6 Bourgois and Diallo, winning 7-6 (7-5), giving CSU the early edge over UK heading into singles play.  

The Wildcats would need to buckle down and win four singles matches to avoid an early exit in the first round. Buckle down they would.  

Leblanc would quickly tie the match at one on court six, avenging his doubles loss to Mindry, winning 6-1, 6-0.  

No. 85 Bourgois would then make it 2-1 UK after a convincing victory over Maxime Mareschal-Hay, 6-2, 6-3, the 16th  win of the Spring for the co-team captain fifth-year student out of Paris. 

Right behind Bourgois was his fellow captain, No. 33 Millen Hurrion, who breezed past Phillips on court three, 6-2, 6-2, to give UK a commanding 3-1 lead, putting them one point away from moving on to the second-round of the NCAA Tennis Championship. 

It would be No. 1 Draxl to close the show for Big Blue, as he defeated Mostardi on court one 7-5, 6-1 to give Kentucky the 4-1 win over Cleveland State. The win was Draxl’s 20th in what has been an illustrious year for the sophomore out of Newmarket, Ontario.  

The Wildcats got punched in the mouth early, but weathered the storm as their talent prevailed in singles play, pushing them into the second round.  

Round two will take place tomorrow, as a battle of the Wildcats will commence when Kentucky takes on Arizona in Lexington, with a trip to Orlando for the super-regional at stake for the winner. 

The matchup will take place at 1:00 p.m. E.T at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.