The Kentucky men’s tennis team claimed the 4th seed in the NCAA Tournament after an stellar regular season and SEC Tournament title.
The Cats are expected to take on first-round opponent Presbyterian College on Friday at the Boone Tennis Center on the UK campus. And Kentucky did just that, winning 4-0 to advance to the second round of this year’s NCAA Tournament. There, Great Britain will face Northwestern, who beat UCLA in its first game on Friday.
The UK wasted no time taking the lead on Friday. The Cats took the double as Josh Lapadat and JJ Mercer beat PC’s Sebastian Dominguez and Denim Yadav 6-4 to claim the point.
From there, it sailed smoothly. Kentucky won three singles in consecutive sets to get the four points needed to secure victory. Lapadat, Jaden Weekes and Taha Baadi each won their matches, helping the Cats move on.
It was the kind of convincing win one would expect from one of the nation’s top seeds. Great Britain head coach Cedric Kauffmann was pleased with how his team handled business on Friday.
“You can’t take those wins for granted,” says Kauffmann. “Thirty-two teams will go home and 32 teams will advance.”
The Cats were not overly confident on Friday, making sure to handle the business in front of them. Kauffmann has a simple method for dealing with overconfidence that can occur on his team.
“I tell them they’re not as good as they think they are,” says Kauffmann. “At the end of the day, that’s what you tell them. They are good, but they are not the best. We haven’t proven that yet. You have to win the NCAAs.
The UK head coach thinks his team started slow but finished strong.
“I think, naturally, we were a bit disappointed in the doubles,” said Kauffmann. “We had two weeks off and test week, so I don’t think it was our best moment. But the final hour is Kentucky tennis. I think if we can do it tomorrow, we have a good chance.”
Baadi won the decisive point in the match, defeating Yadav 6-1, 6-2. Baadi and his teammates know better than looking ahead.
“We knew from the beginning that you can’t underestimate anyone,” Baadi said. “If you get into the NCAA Tournament, you’re doing some good things and they’re on a winning streak, we know that. So we took it seriously from the beginning and I think the boys did a great job in taking care of the business.”
The senior from Montreal knew that the team understood Kauffmann’s message loud and clear.
“Ced made sure he told us how important it was to forget what happened two weeks ago,” Baadi said. “It is about the present. I think the guys got the message pretty clear.
Kentucky now faces Northwestern on Saturday, with a slot in next week’s Sweet 16. The UK hopes to follow a similar formula to what it did on Friday – treating its business like one of the best teams in the league.