Men's Tennis
No. 5 Kentucky Hosts Georgia, No. 6 Tennessee With SEC Title At Stake

No. 5 Kentucky Hosts Georgia, No. 6 Tennessee With SEC Title At Stake

by Ben Slack

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The fifth-ranked Kentucky men’s tennis program has the opportunity to lock up the program’s third regular-season Southeastern Conference title this weekend, hosting No. 38 Georgia and No. 6 Tennessee in the final weekend of the regular season. The Wildcats will host the Bulldogs on Friday, April 12 at 5 p.m. ET at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex, before holding senior day festivities in a top-ten matchup with the Volunteers on Sunday, April 14 at 1 p.m. ET. Seniors Taha Baadi, Joshua Lapadat, and Tate Sandman will be honored in a pre-match ceremony prior to Sunday’s contest against Tennessee.

Admission to both matches is free of charge to all fans, and for the first time this season, concession options will be available at the Boone. Food trucks will be present at both matches, with Taylor Belle’s available at Friday’s match and Drake’s providing food options on Sunday.

The Wildcats (19-2, 10-0 SEC) need just one victory on the weekend to clinch a share of the program’s third regular season SEC title, and the first since 2012. Kentucky currently sits in first place as the only undefeated team in the league, one-half game ahead of Tennessee in the standings. Due to the Vols retaining a conference loss, the Cats need a single victory to claim a share of the championship. If Kentucky were to beat Tennessee in the head-to-head matchup on Sunday, the Cats would be outright champions, regardless of the result of the match against Georgia. If the Wildcats were to win both matches, it would be the second straight year that the league has seen an undefeated champion, a feat Georgia accomplished a year ago.

Kentucky, the defending SEC Tournament champions, enter the match on a twelve-match winning streak that includes the first ten matches of conference play. Recent success for the Wildcats has been paved by the doubles point, as Kentucky has started its duals with a lead in the last five matches. In the latest ITA rankings, the Wildcats saw a season-high four appearances in the listing. The doubles pairing of Lapadat and fifth-year senior JJ Mercer continue to lead the way, as they rose to a season-high ranking of No. 8, their second-straight appearance in the top-ten. In singles, three Wildcats earned rankings, as Baadi was slotted at No. 38, Lapadat rose to No. 99, and Jaden Weekes debuted at No. 124.

Georgia (12-11, 4-6 SEC) enters Friday’s contest on a two-match win streak, as it swept a doubleheader against Southern Miss and Ole Miss last Friday. The Bulldogs have played a challenging schedule thus far, but only have one top-25 win, a 5-2 home victory over No. 21 Alabama, to show for it. Thomas Paulsell leads his team in the ITA Rankings, checking in at No. 54 in this week’s release. Ryan Colby and Miguel Perez Peña also find themselves in the singles charts, sitting at No. 64 and No. 120, respectively. A pair of Georgia doubles teams also appear in the rankings, as their top two teams of No. 27 Freddy Blaydes and Niels Ratiu and No. 69 Thomas Paulsell and Ryan Colby sit in the top-90. The Cats and the Dawgs split the season series last season, as Georgia defeated Kentucky, 5-2 in Athens during the regular season, before Kentucky won in comeback fashion, 4-3, in the SEC Tournament Championship Match.

Tennessee (21-4, 10-1 SEC) comes to Lexington as the league’s second-highest team in the ITA rankings at No. 6. The Vols own seven top-25 wins and are 2-3 against teams that are currently in the top-ten. The match in Lexington is the only contest of the weekend for Tennessee, who has already played one more league match than Kentucky; Tennessee’s only SEC blemish thus far is a 5-2 loss at No. 12 Texas A&M. Johannus Monday, the defending SEC Player of the Year, leads his squad, and the conference, with his No. 3 ranking in singles. Shunsuke Mitsui, ranked No. 31, is also featured in this week’s ITA rankings, alongside a pair of doubles teams. Sunday’s No. 1 doubles match is projected to be a top-ten battle, as Monday and Angel Diaz are currently ranked tenth in the nation. Mitsui and Filip Pieczonka are ranked No. 58. The Cats and the Vols also split the season series a year ago, with Tennessee claiming a 4-0 victory in Knoxville and Kentucky earning a 4-3 win in the SEC Tournament semifinals.

Following this weekend, the Cats will open postseason action at the SEC Tournament in Baton Rouge, La., where they look to defend their title from a season ago. Kentucky has already clinched a double-bye, meaning their first match will take place in the Quarterfinals on Friday, April 19. More information on the event can be found here.

For the latest on UK Men’s Tennis, follow the Wildcats on Twitter and Instagram at @UKMensTennis.

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