Cats suffer first tennis loss against Notre Dame


Ryo Matsumura prepares for a backhand slice during the second set of his singles match during the Kentucky/Notre Dame men’s tennis match on Saturday, January 19, 2019 in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Natalie Parks | Staff

Hailey Peters

After sweeping two teams in a row in their season opener, Kentucky men’s tennis faced a more difficult foe at home in the form of No. 18 Notre Dame on Saturday. Through a very long match with a strong effort from the Cats, they lost to the Fighting Irish 5-2.

“We knew playing against a team in the top 20 would be hard,” UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann said. “We played good and did our best, but it was still very difficult to win.”

Kentucky lost its first doubles point of the season after Notre Dame swiftly shut down two of the Cats’ pairings seemingly effortlessly. Kevin Huempfner and Kento Yamada were the first to fall in a set that ended 6-1 in favor of the Irish. The shortcomings of the doubles pairings were shared by number one doubles team Cesar Bourgois and Enzo Wallart, who managed to claim 3 games before sharing the unfortunate fate of their teammates.

With the doubles point already clinched by the Irish, the third doubles team, consisting of Theo McDonald and Ryo Matsumura, ended their match in a stall after fighting their opponents to a 4-4 tie.

The singles matches reflected on the talent of the ranked Irish, as many of their top players dominated the Cats, even through several 3-set runs.

Wildcats No. 1-seeded singles player Matsumura was the first singles player to be dethroned. He was swept by his opponent in two sets (6-2, 6-3) after the Irish number one player’s backhand ended in spots on Matsumura’s court that the Wildcat was unable to return.

Wallart, who made his first appearance as No. 2 single player at home, brought his team its first point of the match after sweeping his Notre Dame equivalent (6-4, 6-2). All but two of the games he lost were by 1-score margins, and his intensely powerful serve ended in aces three times.

The Cats experienced their first 3-set matches at home against Notre Dame, as both McDonald and Bourgois played their opponents to tiebreaks before eventually losing their battles.

McDonald’s first set was won 7-5, while his last two exhibited his gradual loss of stamina and the Irish’s knack for coming back from a deficit. He managed to win a few more games within his last two sets, but still fell 6-1 and 6-4.

The closest, back-and-forth singles match of the day featured Bourgois, who went up quickly in his first set only to lose 6-4 to his opponent who came back on a 6-1 game run. Through the second set, Bourgois flipped the switch to come back from a 2-game deficit to tie the match with a 6-4 set in his favor. In final set, he entered a tiebreaker after going 6-6 against a very evenly matched opponent in offensive prowess. Sadly for Kentucky, the team’s match was clinched by the Irish after Bourgois lost his final game.

Although the Irish had clinched the match, the remaining two singles continued to play until the end of their respective matches. Huempfner gave the Irish an extra point after falling in his match 6-4 and 6-1, while Yamada brought the Cats one more match point after sweeping his counterpart 6-3, 6-3.

“Hopefully next game is better against Duke,” said Bourgois. “We have to take it one game at a time and do our best and see what comes of it.”

The loss against Notre Dame lands the Cats at a record of 2-1 one week into their spring schedule. Their next match will be played at home on Monday at noon against Duke before the team heads to New York for the ITA kickoff next weekend.