No. 2 Kentucky Knocks off No. 15 Florida, Advances to ITA Quarterfinals
CHICAGO – No. 2 Kentucky opened its campaign at the 2023 ITA Indoor National Championships with a convincing 4-1 over No. 15 Florida, the defending SEC champions. The Wildcats continue their undefeated start to 2023, moving to 11-0 on the season. Kentucky won its opening match at the tournament for the second year in a row. The win over the Gators was also the first for the ‘Cats since 2017 and was the third ranked win for Kentucky in its last five matches.
Kentucky was led on the day by stellar performances from senior Liam Draxl and junior Joshua Lapadat. The Canadian pair each picked up wins at both singles and doubles to pace the Kentucky attack. Both of Lapadat’s wins came against ranked opposition.
The ’Cats blasted out of the gate, capturing the doubles point for the first time in their last three matches. Florida would take early advantages on all three courts, but Kentucky was able to fight back. The Gators No. 1 pair was able to knock off the duo of Alafia Ayeni and Taha Baadi, but the Wildcats responded quickly. Teaming up for the first time this season, Liam Draxl and Jaden Weekes took down Florida at No. 3 doubles. With Court two deciding the opening point, Lapadat and JJ Mercer were able to pick up their first ranked win of the season, knocking of the 15th-ranked pair of Nirundorn and Tokac by a final score of 6-4.
Opening singles with a 1-0 advantage in the dual, the tournament’s second seed was able to claim the first set of four of the six singles court.
No. 45 Draxl, the 2021 ITA Player of the Year, was the first Wildcat to add a point to the Kentucky tally. Playing at No. 1 Singles against Axel Nefve, an All-ACC player from his time at Notre Dame, Draxl was able to dominate. In a match that only last three-quarters of an hour, the senior from Newmarket, Ontario, Canada did not drop a game in either set.
No. 3 singles was the next match to reach its conclusion. No. 16 Lapadat, the highest ranked Wildcat in the singles lineup, was able to knock off his second straight ranked opponent. The junior from London, Ontario, Canada dispatched No. 48 Jonah Braswell in straight-sets, 6-4, 6-1.
The Gators were able to snatch one point back, claiming a comeback victory at No. 5 Singles. Despite winning the first set, freshman Jaden Weekes fell to Florida’s Togan Tokac, 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.
With only one more Kentucky point needed to secure the dual, Charlelie Cosnet was once again able to find the clinching point. The French freshman, ranked No. 57 in the county, survived a first set tiebreaker, 7-6 (4), before cruising to a 6-3 win to seal the win for the ‘Cats.
Two ranked matchups went unfinished, as No. 2 and No. 4 Singles were not played out. No. 66 Ayeni split a pair of tiebreakers with No. 94 Will Grant, but the third set did not begin before Kentucky clinched the team result. No. 115 Baadi won his second set to send the match to a decider, but it was abandoned at 1-1 in the third.
Kentucky will return to action on Saturday, Feb. 18 in the Quarterfinals of the ITA Indoor National Championships. The second-seeded Wildcats will face off against No. 7 USC on Saturday at a time to be determined. This is the third year in a row that the Wildcats and the Trojans have squared off during ITA Nationals week. In 2021, the No. 1 Trojans held off an upset bid by the 19th-ranked ‘Cats, 4-3, in a match that acted as a warmup for the Trojans’ run at the 2021 tournament. In 2022, Kentucky got its revenge, sweeping the Trojans in the opening round of last year’s event. Fans can follow along with live scores, watch online through Cracked Racquets and Track Tennis, or purchase tickets through the ITA website.
Kentucky vs. Florida
Grant/Nefve (UF) def. Alafia Ayeni/Taha Baadi (UK) 6-4
Joshua Lapadat/JJ Mercer (UK) def. No. 15 Nirundorn/Tokac (UK) 6-4
Liam Draxl/Jaden Weeks def. Bonetto/Orlikowski (UF) 6-3
No. 45 Liam Draxl (UK) def. Nefve (UF) 6-0, 6-0
No. 66 Alafia Ayeni (UK) vs. No. 94 Grant (UF) 6-7 (3), 7-6 (6), 0-0 (unfinished)
No. 16 Joshua Lapadat (UK) def. No. 48 Braswell (UF) 6-4, 6-1
No. 115 Taha Baadi (UK) vs. No. 95 Bonetto (UF) 5-7, 6-4, 1-1 (unfinished)
Tokac (UF) def. Jaden Weekes (UK) 4-6, 6-2, 6-3
No. 57 Charlelie Cosnet (UK) def. Greif (UF) 7-6 (4), 6-3
Order of Finish:
Doubles—1, 3, 2
Singles—1, 3, 5, 6