Men's Tennis

Eight Seed Kentucky Gets Rematch Against Four Seed Ohio State in Final Four

by Ryan Cullinane

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – The Kentucky Wildcats (25-7) will take on the Ohio State University Buckeyes (28-3) in its first NCAA Tournament Semifinal appearance in program history on Saturday at the Atkins Outdoor Tennis Complex at 11 a.m. ET. With UK as the eight seed and OSU as the four seed, this marks the first in NCAA Tournament history that a top-three seed did not advance to the Final Four. 
 
The Wildcats advanced to their first semifinal in program history after defeating top-seeded TCU in comeback fashion on Thursday in a thrilling 4-3 result. Their previous postseason wins in this year’s tournament came against DePaul, Northwestern and Wake Forest, all at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex.
 
Kentucky and Ohio State previously faced off early in the season in Columbus, Ohio, at the Ty Tucker Tennis Center. At the time, the Buckeyes were the top-ranked team in the country and were victorious at their indoor home facility, winning 4-0. 
 
Setting the stage
Kentucky made history when it defeated top-seeded TCU on Thursday, earning the first Final Four berth in program history. All four of UK’s wins in singles came against ranked competition, with No. 4 Liam Draxl and No. 21 Gabriel Diallo picking up wins against top-20 opponents while No. 83 Millen Hurrion and Francois Musitelli snagged top-100 wins of their own. 
 
The 4-3 victory over the Horned Frogs was the Wildcats’ first of the year when No. 113 Joshua Lapadat dropped his match on court five. UK earned its ninth match win of the season when it loses the doubles point. 
 
No. 21 Diallo earned the historic match-clinching win for Kentucky, who was able to power over No. 16 Juan Carlos Aguilar, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4, using his powerful serve. The UK junior won the match for the blue and white after Aguilar double-faulted on the final point. 
 
UK was awarded the eighth overall seed in the NCAA Tournament, allowing it to compete in its first three postseason matches at the Boone Complex. Currently, the team is No. 7 in the United States Tennis Association top-25 rankings and No. 9 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association. Kentucky has been slotted inside the top-13 on the ITA rankings all season.
 
The Wildcats have one of the deepest lineups in recent memory, with seven different athletes being ranked in singles and four different doubles tandems ranked this year. 
 
Currently, Draxl leads the way for Kentucky in singles as the fourth-ranked player in the country. Just behind him is No. 21 Diallo, who is 33-6 this year. No. 83 Hurrion and No. 113 Joshua Lapadat round out UK’s ranked singles players. 
 
In doubles, Hurrion and Francois Musitelli is the team’s highest ranked pair at No. 55. Together, they have manned court one and accumulated a 5-5 record this season. No. 60 Draxl and Hurrion make their eighth appearance in the doubles rankings together this season as well.
 
Scouting the Buckeyes
Ohio State earned its sixth national semifinal bid after defeating five seed Michigan, 4-2. After OSU dropped the doubles point, the match was delayed due to lightning in the area. The Buckeyes held leads on five of six courts at the time of the pause.
 
With a 28-3 record this year, including a 7-0 conference mark, Ohio State claimed its 18th regular season Big Ten crown. Two of the three losses the Buckeyes suffered this season came at the hands of the Michigan Wolverines, getting swept 4-0 in Ann Arbor and dropping a 4-2 decision in the Big Ten Championship. The other came to TCU in Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor Championship Semifinals, 4-3.
 
The Buckeyes boast six athletes ranked in singles, including three in the top 20 – No. 9 Cannon Kingsley, No. 13 Matej Vocel and No. 19 JJ Tracy. Their regular choice for the five position, 46th-ranked James Trotter, is 14-4 in dual matches this season. No. 120 Robert Cash hold a 6-1 record at court six, while No. 122 Jake Van Emburgh has split time between the three and four spot. While unranked, Andrew Lutschunig earned his fourth win of the spring season when he clinched OSU’s Elite Eight match, beating Michigan’s Nick Beaty 7-6(11-9), 6-4.
 
After UK faced off against the ITA’s top doubles tandem in the country on Thursday, it will now take on Ohio State’s No. 2 Vocel and Cash, who stand with a 31-4 record this year. They hold a 13-2 record against ranked competition and are 9-1 in their last 10 matches. No. 17 Justin Boulias and Trotter are the other Buckeyes tandem inside the top 20, with a 9-8 record. 
 
Next up for the Cats
Following the team championship, both Diallo and Draxl will remain in Champaign for the individual NCAA Tournament. It will begin on Monday, May 23, with the championship concluding on May 28. Draxl, the reigning ITA Player of the Year, earned the fourth overall seed for the tournament. 
 
This marks the second consecutive bid to the singles tournament for Diallo and Draxl, who both had deep runs last season. Diallo, the 14th-seed a season ago, made it to the Sweet 16, and then-top-seeded Draxl etched himself in Wildcat history by becoming the first UK player to reach the Final Four since Eric Quigley in 2012.
 
Ticket information
Tickets for the remainder of the team NCAA Tournament, as well as the individual tournament, are on sale now and fans are encouraged to purchase them in advance. A ticket for a single day for any portion of the tournament is $17 and an all-session ticket for either the team or individual tournament is $57. Fans interested in purchasing tickets can access the link to do so here.
 
How to watch
For fans who cannot attend the match in person, TennisONE is your home for the NCAA Tournament. The TennisONE app will live stream all matches throughout the postseason. The app is free to download on the iOS and Google Play app stores and can be accessed on the web here.
 
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.
 

– GO CATS –
For more information contact:
Ryan Cullinane (rrcu222@uky.edu) – (859) 257-8309

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