URBANA, Ill. - Assembly Hall was not the only venue in Champaign-Urbana to see fans rush the court this week, as Illini nation surrounded Tim Kopinski when he secured the 4-3 upset victory over the formerly undefeated No. 7 Kentucky Wildcats. The win marks the first time since the 2007 season in which the Illini have knocked off two top-7 nationally ranked teams. Illinois now moves to 4-3 on the season as Kentucky falls to 6-1.
"Kopinski played extraordinary tennis in the last game," said Illinois Head Coach Brad Dancer. "He went out there and got a read on the serves, took serves away from them and counter-attacked on the serves. He used his game to put his will on the opponent."
This week, Tim Kopinski played the role of hero for the Illini as he matched up against Alejandro Gomez in number three singles. The sophomore rolled through the first set 6-1, then lost a tough set two 4-6. Up 4-3 in the third set, all eyes at Atkins Tennis Center turned to Kopinski on court 3 as his match became the decisive point. Kopinski then found another gear, winning the next two games to take the set 6-3 and the match.
"Tim is a warrior," continued Dancer. "He can hardly move with his pulled hamstring. He plays through pain and there's no one more deserving for a moment like that. I couldn't be happier for him."
Jared Hiltzik, who won the final point over #5 Duke last weekend, was in a tough battle on court two as he clashed with No. 15 Tom Jomby, who entered tonight with a 10-1 record. Yet, it was the freshman Hiltzik who secured the point for his respective squad with a 7-5, 7-6(4) win.
Senior leader Bruno Abdelnour also knocked off a ranked opponent this evening in No. 97 Juan Pablo Murra. Abdelnour coasted to a 6-1, 6-2 victory in number four singles.
"Both Jared and Bruno have calm minds out there and play with a lot of enthusiasm, athleticism and speed" said Dancer.
Rounding out the scoring for the Illini was Farris Gosea on court six. The sophomore won a hard fought first set 7-6(3) before finishing off the match with a 6-2 score in set two.
Kentucky claimed singles victories at the one and five spots. No. 94 Anthony Rossi was able to defeat Stephen Hoh 6-4, 6-4. Then Kentucky's Charles Minc got the best of Ross Guignon tonight on court five by the score of 6-3, 6-3.
Illinois inched even closer tonight in finally obtaining the elusive doubles point; yet, it was Kentucky who claimed it on the third and decisive match, where Jared Hiltzik and and Farris Gosea fell to Grant Roberts and Anthony Rossi 8-7 (7-4). Finally, the Illini duo of Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski defeated No. 35 Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai, while Stephen Hoh and Bruno Abdelnour fell to Alejandro Gomez and Ryuji Hirooka.
The Illini do not return to action until March 1, when they host a double-header as Wisconsin-Green Bay and the Iowa Hawkeyes come to town.