Cats Bounce Back With Win Against Duke
DURHAM, N.C. – Multiple Wildcats picked up ranked wins as No. 10 Kentucky (8-1) took down Duke (4-3) by a 4-2 score Sunday afternoon at the Sheffield Indoor Tennis Center. The match marked the last non-conference dual road match UK will play in this season.
Even though the day started with Kentucky trailing in doubles competition, UK responded swiftly with a win of its own. Twenty-second-ranked Joshua Lapadat and JJ Mercer defeated Faris Khan and Niroop Vallabhaneni, 6-4 to pick up their sixth win together.
Junior Liam Draxl and fifth year Millen Hurrion pulled off an impressive comeback in their match against No. 45 Garrett Johns and Sean Sculley. With the doubles point on the line, the pair fought all the way back down 5-3 to take a 6-5 lead. While the Blue Devils forced a tiebreaker, the experienced Wildcats pair dominated 7-3 to earn a hard-fought 7-6 victory, earning the doubles point in favor of the blue and white.
After taking his first loss in doubles on the season, Musitelli bounced back during singles competition in a big way, taking down No. 107 Connor Krug 6-0, 6-4. The Dijon, France, native notched his second ranked victory in seven days from the fourth spot with the win.
The fifth-ranked singles player in the country, Gabriel Diallo, continued to put the pressure on the home team, taking down Sculley 6-2, 6-2 to stay perfect on the year.
With the match score at 3-0 in favor of Kentucky, Duke then picked up two wins of its own on courts five and six to keep it close. Yasha Zemel dropped his first match this spring to Vallabhaneni in a competitive 6-4, 6-3 loss. Mercer also kept his match close but fell in his first singles match to Andrew Dale, 6-4, 6-3.
Even though the Blue Devils put the pressure on the Wildcats, it proved not to be for long. Hurrion took out No. 103 Andrew Zhang shortly after, winning 6-2, 6-4. The team captain earned his first ranked win and third match-clinching point of the season with the victory, picking up a team-high seventh singles win.
Kentucky’s next matches will come at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor Championship from Feb. 18-21 in Seattle. UK earned a spot in the 16-team field by winning the ITA Kickoff Weekend against Mississippi State, making it the first time since 2013 to clinch an appearance in the team Indoor Championship. The team will look to take home its first win in the event for the first time in its 48-year history at the Nordstrom Tennis Center, the home facility to host University of Washington.
While the Wildcats’ dual non-conference road slate comes to an end, the team will play two more opponents outside the SEC after returning from Seattle. Their next home match will come against Northwestern on Feb. 28, the last match before conference play. The last non-conference match will come against No. 7 Virginia on March 31 in a rescheduled match that was originally planned for Feb. 4.
No. 10 Kentucky 4, Duke 2
1. Garrett Johns (DU) vs. Liam Draxl (UK) 5-7, 3-4, unfinished
2. Millen Hurrion (UK) def. #103 Andrew Zhang (DU) 6-2, 6-4
3. #5 Gabriel Diallo (UK) def. Sean Sculley (DU) 6-2, 6-2
4. Francois Musitelli (UK) def. #107 Connor Krug (DU) 6-0, 6-4
5. Andrew Dale (DU) def. JJ Mercer (UK) 6-3, 6-4
6. Niroop Vallabhaneni (DU) def. Yasha Zemel (UK) 6-4, 6-3
Order of finish: 4, 3, 6, 5, 2*
1. Liam Draxl/Millen Hurrion (UK) def. #45 Garrett Johns/Sean Sculley (DU) 7-6 (7-3)
2. Connor Krug/Andrew Zhang (DU) def. Yasha Zemel/Francois Musitelli (UK) 6-3
3. #22 Joshua Lapadat/JJ Mercer (UK) def. Faris Khan/Niroop Vallabhaneni (DU) 6-4
Order of finish: 2, 3, 1*
For the latest on the Kentucky men’s tennis team, follow @UKMensTennis on Twitter and Facebook, @kentuckymenstennis on Instagram, and on the web at UKAthletics.com.
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