URBANA, Ill. – The Illini men's singles and doubles qualifiers were on full display at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex this afternoon, but unfortunately for the Orange and Blue, the trio's run in the NCAA singles and doubles tournaments came to an end. The doubles team of Ross Guignon and Tim Kopinski dropped a thrilling yet heartbreaking 3-6, 7-6(10), 3-6 match to Virginia's four-seed team of Mac Styslinger and Jarmere Jenkins, while Jared Hiltzik lost in the second round of singles to eight-seed Henrique Cunha from Duke, 6-0, 6-1.
"It's never a good feeling to lose, but there's a standard we want to play at, and, for the most part, we met that standard tonight," said Guignon. "When you play a team that good, if you're not there 100 percent of the time, then you're not going to win. We just got unfortunate on a few points here and there."
"We missed a few good opportunities, but I thought we competed really hard," said Kopinski. "That's what got us back in the second set and the match. Just a little unlucky in the third."
The Illini tandem started the match down 1-0 thanks to a game penalty carried over from a misconduct call at the conclusion of the NCAA Regional team match at Vanderbilt. With a 4-3 lead in the opening set, Virginia earned their first break point and then served to take the set 6-3.
The second set can best be described as an emotion battle. With both sides holding serve, the set went into a tie-break. Facing match-point on two separate occasions, Kopinski/Guignon rallied and delighted the home crowd with a 12-10 tiebreak win to claim the second set.
However, the tide of the match quickly turned as Jenkins/Styslinger charged ahead to a 3-0 third-set lead. The Illini duo, who only dropped serve twice, were unable to break Virginia's serve for the entire length of the match and, as a result, dropped the third and final set, 6-3.
"It was an entertaining match in terms of the way Guignon and Kopinski played," said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer. "They had tremendous energy and attitudes out there. They represent our program with the exuberance, energy and class that we want to have. Those two are going to the be the leaders of this program moving forward the next few years."
In the Men's Singles Round of 32, eight-seed Henrique Cunha of Duke defeated Jared Hiltzik 6-0, 6-1 early Thursday afternoon. Hiltzik had a quick turnaround after wrapping up a first-round victory over UCLA's Adrien Puget at 10:30 p.m. last night. The loss marks the end of a great debut year in which the freshman finished the spring season 19-6 in dual matches with four wins over top-25 ranked foes. Hiltzik also earned Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors along with First Team All-Big Ten honors.
"Very disappointing," said Hiltzik. "Today was a big opportunity for me that I didn't take advantage of, and that's all on me. I felt like I couldn't do anything to hurt him unless I made an amazing shot, and he just countered every single shot that I had."
"Cunha is a very smart player. He kind of recognized some of Jared's strengths and weaknesses and also played the wind very intelligently. Every time they played a longer point, Cunha was dictating that point on his terms," said Dancer. "This is a tough way to go down, but at the same time, you always need something to drive you forward and motivate you and I'm sure this will be it for him."