One to go! Kentucky men’s tennis advances to NCAA championship match for first time.

·3 min read

The deepest postseason run in Kentucky men’s tennis history still has another chapter to be written.

After reaching the NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament semifinals for the first time in program history, Kentucky took down Ohio State in the national semifinals on Saturday morning inside the Atkins Tennis Center in Champaign, Illinois.

The match, which was supposed to be played outside, was moved inside due to weather.

Kentucky lost the doubles point to Ohio State, but for the third straight match managed to overcome a 1-0 deficit to win.

The Cats got singles victories from Liam Draxl, Gabriel Diallo, Millen Hurrion and Francois Musitelli to record a 4-1 victory over the Buckeyes to punch their ticket to the national title match for the first time.

“Your teammates and your coaches, they provide all that energy when you’re grinding in that third set,” said Draxl, who won his match against Cannon Kingsley, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. “Probably 25% comes from you, but the other 75% comes from your teammates and the energy that they provide for you. They helped me to get over that finish line.”

Kentucky will play Virginia, the No. 7 overall seed, in the national championship match at 4 p.m. Sunday.

Virginia beat Tennessee, 4-0, in Saturday’s other national semifinal.

Kentucky has already played Virginia this season, losing to the Cavaliers, 4-2, on March 31 in Lexington.

This means Kentucky is the final Southeastern Conference team left in the NCAA Tournament.

Sunday will be a chance at revenge for Kentucky, something the Cats accomplished on Saturday.

Ohio State previously beat Kentucky, 4-0, in February in Columbus, Ohio.

After reaching the final of the SEC Tournament, head coach Cedric Kauffmann’s team has embarked on the best NCAA Tournament run in school history.

Kentucky defeated DePaul, Northwestern and Wake Forest, all at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex in Lexington, to reach the NCAA Tournament quarterfinals.

Starting with the quarterfinals, all matches were played in Champaign.

The Kentucky men’s tennis team celebrates its NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament semifinal win over Ohio State on Saturday afternoon inside the Atkins Tennis Center in Champaign, Illinois. Kentucky will play in the NCAA championship match on Sunday.
The Kentucky men’s tennis team celebrates its NCAA Men’s Tennis Tournament semifinal win over Ohio State on Saturday afternoon inside the Atkins Tennis Center in Champaign, Illinois. Kentucky will play in the NCAA championship match on Sunday.

In the quarterfinals, Kentucky, the No. 8 overall seed, overcame losing the doubles point to defeat TCU, the No. 1 overall seed, 4-3.

Each of Kentucky’s last three victories in the NCAA Tournament ⁠— over Wake Forest, TCU and Ohio State ⁠— have featured a clinching point from one of the three standout players on the team: Hurrion, Diallo and Draxl.

“We knew that this was probably the year we could do some damage,” Draxl told the Herald-Leader this month. “I think we’re a really close team. These guys are my best friends, my brothers and I think it’s more enjoyable working out with them, working hard and then going to battle with them. I think our culture is very good and we just thrive in it and we all become better tennis players.”

Singles tournament

Regardless of whether the Cats win the national championship or not, UK will be sending both Diallo and Draxl to the NCAA Men’s Tennis Singles Tournament.

Diallo and Draxl were both at-large selections to that tournament, which will be held starting Monday, also in Champaign.

Both Diallo and Draxl played in the singles tournament last year, with Diallo reaching the Sweet 16 while Draxl, then the No. 1 seed, became the first UK player to reach the Final Four since 2012.

Both players were First Team All-SEC selections this season. Draxl is the No. 4 overall seed for this year’s singles tournament.

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