With third place in the Big Ten on the line, the Minnesota men’s tennis team will hit the road for matches against No. 17 Illinois on Friday and No. 60 Iowa on Sunday to finish off the regular season. The 23rd-ranked Gophers are currently tied with the Fighting Illini for third place in the league as both teams have identical 6-2 conference records.
Playing without lineup regular Sebastian Gallego last weekend, UM defeated Penn State 6-1 but lost to second-ranked Ohio State 7-0 on Senior Day at the Baseline Tennis Center. Against PSU, Minnesota swept through the doubles competition and lost only one of six singles matches, falling just short of a sweep. In the team’s last match, Rok Bonin and Julian Dehn handed OSU its second doubles match loss in Big Ten play all year, but the Buckeyes went on to claim a 7-0 win.
The Gophers will look to end a 19-match losing streak to Illinois that dates back to 1996. Minnesota has a 25-36 record all-time against the Fighting Illini. Since losing back-to-back matches against Indiana and Ohio State, Illinois has won four straight matches.
Against Illini opponents at the Big Ten Indoors in East Lansing, Mich. and the ITA Central Region Championships in Tulsa, Okla. in the fall, UM was 3-0 in singles and 2-0 in doubles. Illinois topped Minnesota 6-1 last year, with current Gopher junior Phillip Arndt recording the only win for UM.
Illinois has a trio of ranked singles players in No. 10 Dennis Nevolo, No. 74 Abe Souza, and No. 98 Johnny Hamui. Minnesota’s lone ranked singles player is Tobias Wernet who is rated 100th by the ITA. Souza is a part of two ranked doubles tandems. Souza and Nevolo are No. 54 and Souza and Hamui are 82nd. UM’s Gallego and Arndt are the 88th-ranked doubles duo.
Minnesota will look spoil Iowa’s Senior Day for the second year in a row and improve to 59-30 all-time against the Hawkeyes on Sunday. The Gophers have defeated Iowa in 12 consecutive meetings going back to 1998. Iowa, who hosts Wisconsin on Friday sits in a three-way tie for seventh place in the Big Ten and has lost four straight matches since knocking off Penn State and Purdue a few weeks ago.
Against Iowa in the fall, the Gophers were 2-1 in doubles. Arndt took down Nikita Zotov in straight sets at the Big Ten Indoors in the teams’ only singles meeting. When the two teams played in 2010, Minnesota emerged with a 5-2 win despite being swept in doubles. Current Gophers Gallego, Wernet, Arndt, and Brendan Ruddock helped the Gophers come back to earn their final win of the season.
Next week, UM will make a trip to Madison, Wis. to play at the Big Ten Tournament, which begins on Thursday, April 28.