Kentucky Earns Road Win Heading Into SEC Tournament Play

AUBURN, Ala. – Following a solid performance to round out the regular season, the 20th-ranked Kentucky men’s tennis team earned a 4-1 victory on Sunday afternoon at the Yarbrough Tennis Center on the campus of Auburn University to carry a one-match win streak into the Southeastern Conference tournament. 

Once again it was sophomore William Bushamuka closing out the match for the Wildcats on the top court. In his eighth win of the season over a ranked opponent, the Princeton, N.J., native went a full three sets to close out No. 101 Marko Krickovic on the top court. After dropping the first set in a tough tiebreaker, Bushamuka rallied for a 6-7, 6-3, 6-2 victory to clinch the UK victory.  

With the win Kentucky has secured the fifth seed in the SEC Tournament, which begins on Wednesday, April 20. With the fifth seed, the Wildcats earn a first round bye and are set to face the winner of the first round matchup between the twelve-seed Auburn and thirteen-seed Tennessee on Thursday, April 21, with first serve set for 2 p.m. 

Kentucky enters the postseason with a record of 18-8 while going 7-5 in SEC matches. Auburn falls to 12-13 on the season with a 2-10 record in league play.

“We had to dig a little for the win today,” head coach Cedric Kauffmann said following the Wildcats’ victory on Sunday evening. “We wanted to make sure we had a chance to rest Ryotaro [Matsumura]. I’m really proud of how the guys did today, and I think we’re positioned in a good place heading into the post season. If we compete every single point and put our trust in ourselves and each other, we can do some damage in the tournament.”

Kentucky kicked off the match with an impressive doubles performance to notch the first point of the match. Matsumura and sophomore Gus Benson cruised through their opposition on the third court, 6-2, for an early lead. Junior Nils Ellefsen and freshman Enzo Wallart, the country’s 71st-ranked duo, caught a tough break on the top court, as doubles play was evened in a 6-3 setback. The initial point came down to the wire, but a gritty tiebreak performance from the sophomore duo of Bushamuka and Trey Yates earned the Wildcats a 7-6 win and the first team point. 

Auburn refused to lay down, claiming its first point on the second court in singles, as Ellefsen dropped the court two match 6-2, 6-2 for a 1-1 team tie.

Yates responded for Kentucky. The sophomore from Dunwoody, Ga., claimed a straight set victory on the fourth court, 7-5, 6-2, to bump the Wildcats to a 2-1 lead. Shortly thereafter Benson did his part to push the Wildcats to victory on the sixth court. After a 6-2 win in the first set, the second-year Wildcat battled his way through the tiebreak to claim a 7-6 victory. 

Bushamuka’s three-set victory sealed the match, as Wallart and sophomore Jake Stefanik’s matches went unfinished. 

#20 Kentucky 4, #63 Auburn 1

Singles Competition:
1. #31 William Bushamuka (UK) def. #101 Marko Krickovic (AU) 6-7 (7-9), 6-3, 6-2
2. #117 Maxime Hinnisdaels (AU) def. Nils Ellefsen (UK) 6-2, 6-2
3. Conner Huertas (AU) vs. Enzo Wallart (UK) 6-1, 6-7 (3-7), 4-2, unfinished
4. Trey Yates (UK) def. Dante Saleh (AU) 7-5, 6-2
5. Brandon Laubser (AU) vs. Jake Stefanik (UK) 6-2, 6-7 (5-7), 4-5, unfinished
6. Gus Benson (UK) def. Olle Thestrup (AU) 6-2, 7-6 (7-0)

Doubles Competition:
1. Marko Krickovic/Edward Nguyen (AU) def. Nils Ellefsen/Enzo Wallart (UK) 6-3
2. William Bushamuka/Trey Yates (UK) def. Maxime Hinnisdaels/Brandon Laubser (AU) 7-6 (7-5)
3. Ryotaro Matsumura/Gus Benson (UK) def. Conner Huertas/Dante Saleh (AU) 6-2

Match Notes:
Kentucky 18-8 (7-5); National ranking #20
Auburn 12-13 (2-10); National ranking #63
Order of finish: Doubles (3,1,2); Singles (2,4,6,1) 

For more information on the Kentucky men’s tennis team, follow @UKMensTennis on Twitter or Kentucky Men’s Tennis Team on Facebook.