Kentucky secures spot in Final Four for first time in program history


Jack Weaver

Gabriel Diallo celebrates with his doubles partner 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

Cole Parke

No. 8 Kentucky mens tennis defeated No. 1 TCU in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday, securing a bid to the Final Four for the first time in program history.

Since finishing the regular season 21-7 and earning the No. 8 seed in the tournament, Kentucky has defeated DePaul, Northwestern and No. 9 Wake Forest to earn its way to the Elite Eight, and the ball continues to roll after UK came from behind to take down TCU.

The Horned Frogs started the competition in front by securing the doubles point, with the pairs of Sander Jong and Lui Maxted and Juan Caros Aguilar and Pedro Vives defeating UK’s duos of Gabriel Diallo and Joshua Lapadat and Liam Draxl and Alexandre LeBlanc.

UK’s Millen Hurrion and Francois Musitelli were forced to abandon their duel against Luc Fomba and Jake Fearnly after the point was secured in TCU’s favor.

In the singles competition UK shined, with the first point in Kentucky’s favor coming courtesy of Draxl, who defeated Fomba 6-3 and 6-4 respectively.

TCU retook the lead on court six as Tomas Jirousek handily defeated Wildcat JJ Mercer 6-1 twice in a row, but the competition was tied once more on court three when Hurrion defeated Jong 6-3 and 6-4.

The Wildcats took their first lead of the night on court four when Musitelli defeated Fearnley in three matches, winning the first and third 6-4 and conceding the second 6-4 as well.

The Horned Frogs found an equalizer on court five with Vives getting the better of Lapadat 7-5 and 6-3, with all attention turning to the last point, which would be won on court two.

The competitors on court two, UK’s Diallo and TCU’s Aguilar had the fate of each of their teams on their respective shoulders, with a trip to the Final Four and possibly even a national championship being won and lost on the unsuspecting tennis court in Urbana, Illinois.

Aguilar handily won the first set 6-3, putting UK’s back to the ropes, but Diallo responded accordingly, blowing out Aguilar 6-2 in the second set, forcing the final point to be won in the final set on the final court, much to the chagrin of cardiologists across the area.

With everything riding on the final set, Diallo stepped up to the challenge and defeated Aguilar 6-4, being rushed by his teammates on the court afterwards.

With the nail-biting victory, Kentucky earned itself a date with the winner of No. 4 Ohio State and No. 5 Michigan, in the first Final Four appearance in program history.

UK’s Final Four matchup will take place on Saturday, May 21, at 11 a.m. EST, with a bid to Sunday’s mens tennis national championship game on the line.