Men's Tennis
Kentucky Men's Tennis Program Establishing Itself as One of Nation's Best

Kentucky Men's Tennis Program Establishing Itself as One of Nation's Best

by Tim Letcher

Over the past three seasons, the Kentucky men’s tennis team has established itself as one of the top programs in the country. The Cats added to that legacy on Saturday by beating 12th-seeded Harvard 4-2 in the NCAA Tournament Super Regionals at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Center on the UK campus.

Kentucky advances to the NCAA quarterfinals for the third consecutive season and the seventh time in school history. UK was the national runner-up in 2022 before losing in the round of eight last season.

The Cats won their 20th consecutive match on Saturday and have a sparkling 27-2 record heading into the quarterfinals. UK, which is seeded fifth, will face the No. 4 seed, TCU, on Thursday in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Kentucky won the doubles point on Saturday to take an early lead against Harvard. In singles, UK got points from freshman Eli Stephenson and sophomore Charlelie Cosnet. That left the Cats one point short of claiming the victory.

That’s when fifth-year senior Taha Baadi stepped up in a big way. The Montreal native, who is ranked 28th in the country, had a big task, taking on Harvard’s top player, Cooper Williams, who ranks 15th in the country.

After winning the first set 6-3, Baadi dropped set two 2-6. However, he used a pair of late service breaks in set three to win 6-3 and to claim the team victory for his team.

Baadi, who transferred to UK from Wake Forest, has been a key member of the Kentucky team the last two seasons. He knows what makes this team, and this program, so special.

“It means that the culture is paying off and that the hard work, not just from this year but from the last five to 10 years, have paid off,” Baadi said. “The moment you get the sense of a winning culture, then it’s easier to do the year after. People believe a little more, people are willing to work harder because they know the result is very possible. It just shows how great of a coaching staff we have and how great the people are around us to make our life way easier to be in that position year after year.”

UK head coach Cedric Kauffmann was not expecting this kind of success at the beginning of the season, but he’s pleased with how his team has progressed.

“We had a new little crew, we thought it was a little bit of a rebuilding year, but our freshmen are tough,” Kauffmann said. “I’m just so excited for everybody. It’s a great victory for us and our program.”

Kauffmann also knows that the fact that his veterans have been in this spot before helped them on Saturday.

“Being in this little spot the last few years has helped us,” Kauffmann said. “When you come to this spot and you’ve never done it, it’s a different match with your nerves and mentally. We’ve been there before and we know what to do a little bit in the last few moments.”

The Cats were ousted in the quarterfinals last season, but they’re hoping for better results this time around.

“As much as we’re happy to get this win, we’re not satisfied,” Baadi said. “We’ve got TCU left. They’ve got a very good team, so it will be tough. In the last eight, every match is a battle, so we’ll come prepared and we’ll just do what we did all year.”

Kauffmann is confident in his team’s ability.

“We’re just deep and we’re a little bit better in doubles this year,” Kauffmann said. “Not a lot of people think we can win, but we do. So, we will take it one day at a time.”

No matter what happens in Stillwater, Kentucky has established itself as one of the best men’s tennis programs in the country. The Cats proved that yet again with a win on Saturday.


Related Stories

View all