No. 2 Kentucky mens tennis improves to 10-0 with victories over Louisville and Duke


Travis Fannon

Kentucky Wildcats senior Liam Draxl serves the ball during the Kentucky vs. Liberty mens tennis match on Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, at the Boone Tennis Center in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 4-0. Photo by Travis Fannon | Staff

Parker Scott, Reporter

No. 2 Kentucky men’s tennis picked up two important wins over the weekend on the road against No. 23 Louisville and Duke.

The Wildcats defeated the Cardinals on the road on Friday and Duke at home on Sunday, both by a score of 4-3.

The wins improved Kentucky’s record to 10-0 and placed them in a leading position heading into the ITA National Indoors Tournament.

“It’s great to start 10-0,” Liam Draxl said. “We’ve played a lot of tough teams, and if you said that at the start of the season in January, I wouldn’t say that would for sure happen because it’s so easy to drop some losses. We started really well and I think all the guys are in a good spot.”

Starting off with doubles on Friday’s match in Louisville, partners Joshua Lapadat and redshirt junior JJ Mercer, as well as Draxl and fifth-year senior Alafia Ayeni, lost their respective matches, allowing the Cardinals to claim the doubles point.

However, the Wildcats would soon begin to turn things around in singles play. Despite Draxl’s loss against Rodrigues, 2-6 and 3-6, Ayeni came up with a win in two close sets, 7-5 and 7-6.

Lapadat struggled against his opponent, losing both sets 4-6, but the Cats went on to take the last three games which allowed them to clinch the match.

Senior Taha Baadi defeated Matthew Fung 6-1, 6-4 in a strong performance while freshman Jaden Weekes took down Hernandez in straight sets, both with final scores of 7-5.

Charlelie Cosnet, a freshman from Le Mans, France, came up as the hero for the Wildcats in the match against the Cardinals, powering over David Mizrahi in a neck-and-neck deciding set that ended with scores of 7-5, 3-6, and 7-5.

With another win notched for Kentucky, the team headed into Sunday’s home match against Duke.

Starting with doubles, senior Alexandre LeBlanc and Weekes fell to Garrett Johns and Pedro Rodenas by a score of 6-3 on court two.

The duo of Draxl and Ayeni then lost 6-4 on court one to Michael Heller and Andrew Zhang of the Blue Devils.

Both of Kentucky’s matches over the weekend marked just the second and third times in ten games this year that Kentucky has lost out on the doubles point.

Not deterred by the doubles losses, the Cats regrouped and got off to a strong start in singles play, with Lapadat defeating Rodenas in straight sets, 6-1 and 6-2 on court three.

On court two, Draxl triumphed over Zhang 7-5, 6-1 while court one saw Ayeni winning against Johns with scores of 7-5 and 6-3.

Baadi was the Wildcat that clinched the match, though, winning a close fight against Connor Krug by scores of 6-4 and 7-6 (2).

“I was very grateful for the support from my teammates, it made it so much easier,” Baadi said. “I felt like I was playing ten guys against one.”

After recently receiving the highest ITA ranking the program has seen, the team is proud to currently stand where they are at.

“When you look to your right or look to your left and you see your teammates and your brothers, it’s just truly inspiring, and I think that is what’s so special about Kentucky,” Draxl said.

Kentucky will see action next in the ITA National Indoors tournament in Chicago, Illinois, from Friday, Feb. 17 to Monday, Feb. 20. The Cats look to improve from their seventh-place finish in the tournament last year.