No. 2 Kentucky mens tennis suffers first loss in semifinals of ITA National Team Indoor Championships


Travis Fannon

Kentucky Wildcats freshman Jaden Weekes waits to return a serve 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

Sara Gibson, Reporter

Kentucky mens tennis traveled to Chicago over the weekend to compete in the 2023 ITA National Team Indoor Championship, losing to No. 3 TCU in the semifinals for the team’s first loss of the season.

The Wildcats survived and advanced on both Friday and Saturday in matchups against No. 16 Florida and No. 7 Southern California, but ultimately fell 2-4 to the Horned Frogs to move to 12-1 on the season.

In their first matchup of the weekend, the Cats faced off against Florida, where they defeated the Gators 4-1.

Starting things off in doubles play, finishing first on court three for the Wildcats was senior Liam Draxl and freshman Jaden Weekes who won over Florida’s Nate Bonetto and Olek Orlikowski 6-3.

Securing its first doubles point in three matches, giving Kentucky the early lead was Joshua Lapadat and JJ Mercer who defeated Tanapatt Nirundorn and Togan Tokac 6-4.

Off to a quick start in singles play was Draxl who not only finished his match in 33 minutes, but also recorded two bagels beating Axel Nefve in straight sets 6-0, 6-0.

Finishing next on court three was Lapadat who took down the Gators’ Jonah Braswell 6-4 in the first set and 6-1 in the second.

Kentucky Wildcats fifth-year senior Alafia Ayeni hits the ball during the No. 4 Kentucky vs. Dayton mens tennis season opener match on Wednesday, Jan. 18, 2023, at the Boone Tennis Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 5-0. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff (Jack Weaver)

Lapadat is currently ranked No. 16 singles player by ITA and the highest ranked Wildcat.

With the Cats up 3-0, Weekes fell on court five in the tiebreaker, losing to Tokac 4-6, 6-2 and 6-3, giving Florida their only point of the match.

Claiming the victory for Kentucky was freshman Charlelie Cosnet who beat Lukas Greif in a tiebreaker for the first set 7-6(7-4) and 6-3 in the final set.

Kentucky’s performance in the first round was highlighted by the Canadian duo of Draxl and Lapadat, who won both their singles and doubles matches.

On Saturday, Kentucky took on No. 7 Southern California where it outlasted the Trojans 4-3.

The win saw the Wildcats outperform last year’s appearance in the tournament where they lost to TCU in the quarterfinals.

In doubles play against the Trojans, Draxl and Weekes won their second doubles match of the weekend, beating Ryan Colby and Peter Makk 6-3.

Clinching the doubles point for Kentucky was fifth year Alafia Ayeni and senior Taha Baadi, who took down Bradley Frye and Stefan Dostanic 6-4.

It was Baadi who would secure Kentucky’s next point of the match, beating Frye in straight sets 7-5 and 6-3 to take the first singles point.

The 2-0 lead for the Wildcats did not last long, as the Trojans would win on court one with Dostanic defeating Draxl 6-3, 6-4, followed by another win on court six with Lodewijk Westrate beating Mercer 7-5, 6-4 to tie the match at 2.

Cosnet put Kentucky back in the lead after beating Colby in three sets 6-3, 2-6 and 6-4.

To clinch the match for the Wildcats was No.16 Lapadat who dropped the first set 3-6, but would go on to pull off the comeback and win the final two sets 6-2, 6-1.

With the win, the Wildcats advanced to the final four of the 2023 ITA National Team Indoor Championship against defending event champions TCU.

Kentucky Wildcats junior Joshua Lapadat hits 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 (Travis Fannon)

In its match up with the Horned Frogs, Kentucky suffered its first loss of the spring season in a tightly contested match.

In doubles play against TCU, things looked like they would swing Kentucky’s way after Mercer and Lapadat finished first on court two winning over Sander Jong and Jack Pinnington 6-2.

However, the Ayeni and Baadi duo would lose to Jake Fearnley and Luc Fomba 6-4 after being up a break.

Securing the doubles point and the early lead for the Horned Frogs was Sebastian Gorzny and Pedro Vives who took down Draxl and Weekes 6-3.

It was Gorzny who defeated Weekes again to begin singles play and to make the match 2-0 after winning in straight sets 6-2, 6-3.

Draxl, ranked No. 45 in singles, put the Wildcats on the scoreboard after beating No. 17 singles player Fearnley in two sets.

The first set went to a tie breaker going 7-6 (7-1) and the second set finished 6-4 to make the match 2-1, as Draxl claimed a top-20 win.

Next up to tie the match was No. 16 Lapadat on court three, defeating Pinnington 6-2 in the first and third sets, after dropping the second set 6-2.

Then in a battle of strength and power on court two, Ayeni fell to No.49 singles player Fomba 6-4, 4-6 and 6-4 in three sets, making the score 3-2.

Clinching the upset for the Horned Frogs was Tomas Jirousek taking down Cosnet 6-4, 3-6 and 6-3.

With a week’s rest ahead, Kentucky will shift its focus to its matchup with No. 8 South Carolina on Thursday, March 2, at 5 p.m. EST at the Hilary J. Boone Center in Lexington.