Draxl, Ayeni, Baadi Earn NCAA Invites
LEXINGTON, Ky. The NCAA Division I Men’s Tennis Subcommittee announced its selections for the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments on Wednesday, naming three Kentucky Wildcats to compete at the Championships, held May 22-27 at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.
Liam Draxl and Alafia Ayeni were both picked as at large selections for the singles draw, while Ayeni and partner Taha Baadi received an invitation to the doubles tournament. Kentucky’s Joshua Lapadat will also have a chance of a singles draw entry after the junior was listed as the initial first alternate for the event.
Draxl, currently No. 13 in the ITA singles rankings, is 18-6 on the season including eight wins against nationally ranked players. The 2021 ITA National Player of the Year has participated in the NCAA Singles Championship each of the last two seasons, making a run to the semifinals in 2021 as the No. 1 overall seed.
Ayeni, a grad-transfer from Cornell who is in his first year at Kentucky, has gone 16-8 in singles this spring with a team-high nine victories against nationally ranked opponents. The native of San Diego, Calif. is currently No. 22 in the ITA rankings and will be making his second career NCAA singles appearance.
Ayeni is also qualified for the doubles championship alongside Wildcat senior, Taha Baadi. The tandem has occupied the top doubles court for UK for most of the season and is currently ranked as the No. 30 pair by the ITA. Ayeni and Baadi are 8-10 together this year, with four wins against ranked opponents. Ayeni played in the NCAA Doubles Championship in 2022, joining with Cornell teammate, Vladislav Melnic to advance to the second round. For Baadi, this year’s tournament would mark his first NCAA doubles appearance.
Lapadat, a junior hailing from Ontario, Canada, is hoping for his first NCAA Singles bid in 2023. Lapadat was named First-Team All-SEC this year and leads the Wildcats with 20 singles wins during the dual season. He is currently ranked No. 66 in the ITA singles rankings.
Kentucky will begin its quest for an NCAA team title this Friday when the Wildcats hosts Big South Champion, Presbyterian for a first round matchup at the Boone Tennis Complex beginning at 1 p.m.