Illini Upsets #5 Duke 4-3
URBANA, Ill. - No. 25 Illinois upset No. 5 Duke, 4-3, Friday night at the Atkins Tennis Center to move to 3-2 on the season. With the score tied 3-3, the decisive point came down to the No. 2 singles matchup between No. 114 Jared Hiltzik and No. 23 Fred Saba. After claiming a close 7-6 (7) victory in the first set, Hiltzik battled back after a 4-6 second set loss to defeat Saba 6-3 in the third, claiming the Illini team victory.
"Jared wants to be a professional tennis player and tonight he showed the composure of somebody who's used to being in big moments," said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer. "I think that's a representation of the amount of work he's put in. He has worked his tail off the past 2-3 years to get where he is today. I was very proud of him representing our program tonight."
Teammates and fans rushed the court in celebration, as the Illini defeated a top 5 ranked team for the first time since claiming the Big Ten Tournament title by defeating No. 3 Ohio State on April 29, 2012. Illinois head coach Brad Dancer claimed his fifth top 5 win at Illinois in the process, all while reaching the milestone of 150 career wins.
"I told my guys at the break that they are better than what you've been showing," said Dancer. "I challenged our guys to fight and fight as hard as they possibly could. I thought we had a great warrior spirit out there tonight."
The Illini claimed 4 points off of the singles matches, facing a nationally ranked player in all but one of the matches. At the No. 3 singles, Tim Kopinski defeated No. 15 Michael Redlicki 6-3, 6-2 to claim the first point for the Illini. Illinois would go up 2-1 after Bruno Abdelnour defeated Bruno Semenzato 6-0, 6-3. Ross Guignon also secured a singles victory in the No. 6 match defeating No. 38 Raphael Hemmeler 6-2, 6-4.
However, it was the Illini who fell behind early, as Duke claimed the doubles point by defeating the Illini in the No. 1 and No. 3 doubles matches. Despite dropping the first team point, Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski displayed a strong performance as they were up 6-5 over Michael Ridlicki and Jason Tahir when doubles play ended. The Illini fell 8-3 in both doubles losses, as Chris Mengel and Fred Saba defeated Alex Jesse and Jared Hiltzik, while Henrique Cunha and Cale Hammond defeated Bruno Abdelnor and Stephen Hoh.
Rounding out the score, Brian Page lost to No. 46 Chris Mengel 6-1, 7-5 in the No. 5 singles match, while Stephen Hoh lost to No. 11 Henrique Cunha in the No. 1 singles match.
The Illini will return to action looking to defeat another ranked opponent as they get a rematch against No. 15 Tennessee at 6:00 pm CT.