Wildcats look to serve notice in the SEC with two top-10 foes headed to Lexington


Liam Draxl celebrates winning a set during the UK vs. Virginia tennis match on Thursday, March 31, 2022, at Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 4-2. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Hunter Shelton

After a five match winning streak propelled Kentucky to No. 12 in the nation, the Wildcats hit a snag in the road, falling in their last two matches to No. 8 Virginia and No. 10 South Carolina.

Heading into another daunting weekend of Southeastern Conference tennis, Kentucky stands at 15-6 (6-2 SEC) with two more monumental opportunities on the horizon for the Cats to maintain their high placement in the ITA rankings.

Five Wildcats find themselves ranked in singles play, headlined by current No. 9 Gabriel Diallo. The 6-foot-7 junior from Montreal owns a team-best 25 wins on the season, 11 of which have come during the spring. Old Dominion transfer Francois Musitelli holds a 12-5 record in singles action, placing him at No. 61.

Liam Draxl, the reigning National Player of the Year, currently sits at No. 94 due to not playing in any of UK’s fall matches. It’s been tough sledding for the Newmarket, Ontario native on court one, as he is facing the best of the best on a weekly basis. He owns a 10-4 record this spring, with all four of his losses coming against nationally ranked opponents.

Sophomore Joshua Lapadat is one spot behind Draxl at No. 95. After a slow first season in Lexington, Lapadat is cruising on court five for the Wildcats, owning a 14-2 record overall, with a 3-0 record against nationally ranked players. Rounding out the singles rankings is No. 114 Millen Hurrion, who has played the most ranked opponents on the team. He owns a 12-7 record this season.

In doubles action, the second-year pairing of Draxl and Hurrion currently ranks as the 43rd best duo in the country, despite the pair playing just seven matches as a tandem this spring.

On Friday, April 8, the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex will first welcome in No. 5 Tennessee, who is currently riding a three-match winning streak. The Volunteers are 5-1 away from Knoxville and have defeated UK four times in a row.

Headlining the matchup will be sophomore Johannus Monday. The Englishman currently owns the No. 8 ranking in singles play, holding a 20-4 record this season. The Volunteers are loaded on the first three courts, as joining Monday in the rankings are No. 21 Adam Walton and No. 40 Emile Hudd.

When Tennessee last visited Lexington, it swept the Cats 4-0. Last season’s affair was a much tighter one, which saw the Vols escape with a 4-3 win in Knoxville. Draxl got the better of Monday, needing just two sets to win, while Diallo outlasted Walton in three sets on court two.

Just two days following the matchup against the Vols, Kentucky will welcome in yet another top-10 foe in No. 10 Georgia.

The 15-5 (7-2 SEC) Bulldogs will carry a two-match winning streak into the Boone, having won five of its last six matches. Like Tennessee, UGA has excelled away from home, winning seven of its nine matches as the away team.

No. 17 Hamish Stewart leads the way for the Dawgs with a 23-11 overall record. The graduate student holds a 13-7 record against ranked foes and has won three matches in a row.

Stewart is one of four ranked singles players the Cats will square off with on Sunday. No. 32 Tristan McCormick has won 14 of his last 17 singles matches, while No. 76 Phillip Henning carries an 8-5 record on court two this spring.

Rounding out the ranked Bulldogs is No. 104 Trent Bryde, who has struggled this season, winning just eight matches, four of which have come in the court four slot.

Georgia outlasted the Cats 4-3 last season in Athens. Draxl defeated Bryde on court one in three sets, while Diallo cruised on court two, winning both sets by a score of 6-1. The Dawgs collected the doubles point, which proved to be the difference.

Like it is in many sports, the SEC claims dominance in the world of collegiate tennis. Following this weekend, Kentucky will have played 14 matches against nationally ranked teams, with two more to follow on the schedule to round out the regular season.

The SEC Championships are set to take place from April 20-24, at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Georgia.