UK tennis comes back to beat No. 7 Illinois


Enzo Wallart celebrates with Ryotaro Matsumura during the match against the Arkansas Razorbacks on Friday, March 4, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the match 5-2. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Peyton Barnhill

UK tennis faced a formidable No. 7 Illinois Fighting Illini team Sunday, with UK coming off a loss to No. 20 Duke Blue Devils. Illinois was coming off a 2-1 record at the ITA National Indoor Championships, including a 4-1 win against the same Duke Blue Devils team.

Illinois came out victorious in the doubles matches. The first team from Illinois. Vuk Budic and Noe Khlif, defeated the team from UK, Will Bushamuka and Trey Yates, 6-2.

The second team from Illinois, Aleks Kovacevic and Zeke Clark, defeated the team from Kentucky, Ryotaro Matsumura and Enzo Wallart, 6-2.

The last match ended in a tie between Illinois’ Aleks Vukic and Aron Hiltzik and Kentucky’s Cesar Bourgois and Gus Benson with a score of 5-5 going into the eleventh game.

UK’s highest-ranked competitior, Ryotaro Matsumura, ranked No. 63 by the ITA, came away victorious in his singles match against Illinois’ Aron Hiltzik, ranked No. 97 in singles. In the first set, Matsumura won with a set score of 6-4. In the second set, Matsumura dominated Hiltzik with a set score of 6-1, closing out the sweep.

UK later tied up the team score 3-3 with only one match remaining. Junior Austin Hussey faced Illinois’ Zeke Clark. Hussey won the first set in a tie breaker 7-6. The second set also resulted in a tie breaker, but Clark came away victorious 7-6. With the team win on the line, Hussey pulled through in the third set with a 6-4 win, giving the Cats a 4-3 win over Illinois.

“The amount of training that we go through all year long leads us to wins like this,” Hussey said after the win. “We needed a big win after the rough start to the season we’ve had.”

After the team play, head coach Cedric Kauffman gave some insight on his team’s play today.

“We just have to go back to work on Tuesday and then maybe talk about Oklahoma on Friday,” he said.

He also said he was proud of his team’s effort and perseverance to make it through matches that take all three sets.

“Yeah, I’m just really proud of those guys,” Kauffman said. 

All in all, the Cats made a huge statement win by defeating Illinois Sunday. They improved their record to 7-3 and are now focusing on traveling to Norman, Oklahoma, to take on the Oklahoma Sooners Friday, March 2.