Kentucky mens tennis defeats Liberty 4-0 to start ITA Kickoff Weekend


Alexandre LeBlanc, left, and Liam Draxl, right, celebrate winning their doubles match 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

Sara Gibson, Reporter

No. 5 Kentucky mens tennis swept Liberty 4-0 in the first round of ITA 2023 Kickoff Weekend, improving to 5-0 on the season.

Kentucky was chosen as one of 15 host sites for the tournament where the top 60 teams in college tennis compete as a preview for the upcoming spring season. The top 15 advance to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships.

Starting things off with a 6-3 win, Wildcats Alafia Ayeni and 2021 ITA National Player of the Year Liam Draxl took down Liberty’s Josh Wilson and Christiaan Worst in the first doubles match up.

To secure the overall doubles point for Kentucky was Alexandre LeBlanc and Jaden Weekes who defeated Zion Heaven and Beau Pelletier for the Eagles with a score of 6-2.

With two court wins, Joshua Lapadat and JJ Mercer’s doubles matchup went unfinished.

Kentucky continued its strong performance in singles play as the Cats took the first set on all four courts.

Finishing first was Ayeni on court two, defeating Pelletier 6-1, 6-0 and recording Kentucky’s only bagel of the day.

Next to finish was Draxl, who defeated Liberty’s Wilson in three sets. Draxl won both the first and last set 6-2, dropping the second 3-6.

Lapadat would try to seal the win for the Wildcats, but would fall to Thomas-Smith 6-3, 6-7, with the third set going unfinished (3-7).

Securing the victory for Kentucky on court four was Taha Baadi, who defeated Worst 6-3, 7-6 (4). Baadi started the match in a 0-2 hole and battled back to claim the win for the Wildcats.

Kentucky will look to build on its ITA Team Indoor Championships success from last year, where the Cats advanced to the top 15, but fell to Baylor after winning their first match against USC.

With the win over Liberty, Kentucky advances to the next round of ITA Kickoff Weekend and is set to play the winner of Notre Dame vs. Washington on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 11 a.m. EST at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center. Admission is free to the public.