Men's Tennis 2023 Spring Season Preview
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Nearly eight months removed from its run to the NCAA Tournament Final, Kentucky men’s tennis is finally set to begin the 2023 spring season.
Armed with several key returnees from last year’s team, along with a number of talented newcomers, head coach Cedric Kauffmann’s team received the program’s highest-ever preseason ranking from the ITA at No. 4 in the country.
Liam Draxl, the program’s first-ever ITA National Player of the Year back in 2021, is back for his senior season, and will lead Wildcats for a fourth-straight season. Draxl, a two-time ITA All-American and two-time All-SEC First Team selection, finished the 2022 season with a 16-7 singles record in dual matches, with 10 wins against nationally-ranked opponents. He ended the year at No. 6 in the ITA singles rankings, leading a group of four Kentucky players ranked in the top-125.
Joshua Lapadat was among those Wildcats to appear in the final ITA singles rankings of 2022. Now a junior, Lapadat will look to level up his game once again in 2023 after a strong fall season which saw the Ontario, Canada native reach No. 14 in the fall rankings.
A couple of key transfers in Alafia Ayeni (Cornell) and Taha Baadi (Wake Forest) will join Draxl and Lapadat at the top of the Kentucky lineup.
Ayeni, currently the top ranked collegiate player in the ATP Rankings at No. 399, was a four-year standout in Ithaca, N.Y., a two-time First-Team All-Ivy selection and the 2017-18 Ivy League Rookie of the Year. He wrapped up last season at No. 48 in the ITA singles rankings, earning him a spot in the NCAA Tournament singles draw. The graduate student has found great success on the ATP Challenger Tour this fall, highlighted by a run to the semifinals at the Fairfield Challenger which included a win over two-time Australian Open Quarterfinalist, Tennys Sandgren.
Baadi comes to Lexington after three seasons with Wake Forest during which he accumulated a 35-21 singles record, and a 24-11 mark in doubles. Baadi was named Third Team All-ACC in singles as the Demon Deacons reached the Round of 16 in the NCAA Tournament in 2022. This fall, Baadi posted a 2-2 record to come in at No. 108 in the ITA singles rankings.
A pair of international freshmen in Charlelie Cosnet (France) and Jaden Weekes (Canada) also figure to be impactful additions to the UK lineup, as both enter college with ATP rankings points already to their names.
Kentucky’s 2023 spring schedule begins on Jan. 18 with a home doubleheader vs. Dayton. The Wildcats’ top non-conferences tests include a rematch with defending National Champion, and preseason ITA No. 1, Virginia (Feb. 3), as well as a date with No. 20 ranked Duke (Feb. 12).
The Cats will navigate a strong SEC slate which features six conference opponents ranked inside the ITA preseason top-25. Five of those six matches will be on the road for Kentucky, including a crucial back-to-back against No. 7 Georgia (March 31) and No. 6 Tennessee (April 2). The Wildcats will host No. 10 South Carolina in the team’s SEC opener, March 2.
Also of note, as one of the top 15 teams in the nation in the final ITA poll of 2022, Kentucky is set to serve as a host for ITA Kickoff Weekend for the first time since 2018. The Wildcats will host Liberty, Notre Dame and Washington, Jan. 27-28, with the weekend’s winning team advancing to the ITA National Team Indoor Championship in Chicago.
Admission to all home matches for Kentucky tennis is free of charge to the public. The 2023 men’s tennis schedule can be seen here.
For the latest on UK Men’s Tennis, follow the Wildcats on Twitter and Instagram at @UKMensTennis.