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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


No. 7 Arizona men’s tennis sweep weekend matches against Eastern Illinois and No. 11 Illinois

Amelia McAnear

Gustaf Strom a player on the Arizona men’s tennis team screams in celebration after winning a point in a game against Pepperdine University on Feb. 3 at the LaNelle Robson Tennis Center. The Wildcats went on to win the match 6-1.

The No. 7 Arizona men’s tennis team traveled to Champaign, Illinois, to face Eastern Illinois University on Saturday, March 9, at 2 p.m., and No. 11 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign on Sunday, March 10, at 1 p.m. The Wildcats were coming off their recent victory at the Diablo College Tennis Invitational, which took place from March 1-3. Due to their impressive performance and victory in this tournament, they moved up two rankings, giving them their highest ranking in program history.

Arizona continued riding this high into this weekend of matches and defeated Eastern Illinois in a dominant 7-0 sweep. The following day, after battling back and forth with a formidable Illinois team, the Wildcats ultimately outlasted the Fighting Illini, winning the match 4-3.

Day 1: No. 7 Arizona vs. Eastern Illinois – Saturday, March 9, 2 p.m. 

In the first match of the weekend between Arizona and Eastern Illinois, it was evident from the jump and became clearer as each doubles and singles match unfolded that Arizona held a talent advantage, ultimately reflected in the 7-0 result. The Wildcats began with momentum heavily in their favor, particularly in doubles, where Iñaki Cabrera-Bello and Sasha Rozin set the tone for the team with an impressive 6-0 shutout win. Following suit, Herman Hoeyeraal and Eric Padgham delivered a dominant 6-1 performance, securing the doubles point for Arizona.

Hoeyeraal continued his stellar play, carrying his winning streak into the singles matches with six straight-set victories, concluding with scores of 6-0, 6-1. Next up, Nick Lagaev contributed another point for Arizona, securing a single-point win with a 6-1, 6-0 victory. With this win, Lagaev is now tied for the record for the most single wins in program history, matching Philip Malbasic with 86 wins.

From this point on, the Wildcats never let up. Cabrera-Bello extended the lead with his second win of the day, finishing with scores of 6-1, 6-1. Padgham joined in with a commanding 6-1, 6-2 victory, further solidifying Arizona’s overall dominant performance. Casper Christensen followed suit, securing a 6-0, 6-3 victory. The final match of the day featured Rozin, who capped off the singles matches with a solid 6-2, 6-2 win, wrapping up Arizona’s emphatic start to its weekend in Illinois.

Day 2: No. 7 Arizona vs. No. 11 Illinois – Sunday, March 10, 1 p.m.

The matchup between Arizona and Illinois proved to be a closely contested affair. Although Arizona secured the 4-3 victory against the Fighting Illini, it was far from an easy match for the Wildcats. Beginning with the doubles matches, the Illini’s Karlis Ozolins and Hunter Heck swept Hoeyeraal and Padgham 6-0.

Then to add to their advantage, No. 57 Lucas Horve and Oliver Okonkwo secured a hard-fought 7-5 victory over No. 15 Jay Friend and Colton Smith. However, Arizona would respond in the singles competition. No. 52 Friend would display remarkable grit and clinch a 7-5, 6-7 (11-13), 6-4 victory over No. 30 Ozolins, giving Arizona some breathing room after a tough start. Then Hoeyeraal would continue to add to the Wildcats’ singles success with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over No. 55 Kenta Miyoshi. Up next, Lagaev secured a narrow 7-6 (7-5), 6-0 win over William Mroz. Then Christensen would wrap things up for Arizona and help it secure its victory with his 6-4, 6-3 victory over Mathis Debru. 

Despite initial setbacks and back-to-back victories for the Illini, Arizona showcased resilience and found a way to turn the tide back in its favor, ultimately clinching the overall match.

Looking ahead: 

The Wildcats now have 12 days off before they begin conference play against No. 7 USC on Friday, March 22, at 4 p.m. and then UCLA on Sunday, March 24 in Los Angeles.

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