ORLANDO, Fla. — Two wins separate Aleks Kovacevic from a national title.
The Illinois junior advanced to the semifinals of the NCAA singles championships, with a 6-7, 7-6, 6-3 quarterfinal victory over Florida’s Sam Riffice on Thursday night at the USTA National Campus in Orlando, Fla.
The seventh-seeded Kovacevic became the first Illini to reach the men’s semifinals of the NCAA singles tournament since Illinois Hall of Fame athlete Kevin Anderson did so in 2007.
With three match points in the third set against his 54th-seeded opponent, Kovacevic didn’t wait around long, ripping a forehand winner down the line to secure the match.
Kovacevic, who will face No. 4 seed Paul Jubb of South Carolina in today’s semifinal, came back from one set down and a 4-2 deficit in the second to be among the last four players standing.
Kawai’s run ends. Sophomore Asuka Kawai saw an unforgettable season come to a close during the NCAA singles quarterfinals on Thursday evening in Orlando, Fla.
Ranked No. 43, Kawai fell in straight sets to top seed Estela Perez Somarriba of Miami, 6-4, 6-4. Kawai, who posted an 18-10 singles record this spring for the Illini, still achieved the best-ever finish in program history at the NCAA women’s singles tournament.
Illini baseball bows out. Garrett Acton was one strike away from closing out another win for the Illinois baseball team.
But, Ako Thomas worked a two-out, two-strike walk in the ninth inning before Jordan Nwogu lashed a two-run double and second-seeded Michigan stunned the third-seeded Illini 5-4, eliminating Dan Hartleb’s team from the Big Ten tournament on Thursday at T.D. Ameritrade Park in Omaha, Neb.
Illinois (36-19) will now have to wait until Monday to learn its NCAA tournament fate, with the field of 64 being announced at 11 a.m. on ESPNU. With an RPI in the top 30, the Illini are in good position to land an at-large bid.
"Obviously a tough loss for us," Hartleb said. "Takes us out of the tournament and you always want to play for a championship. We had a lot of guys do things well (Thursday). I thought we played to win, but ultimately we just made too many mistakes."
Centennial graduate Kellen Sarver led Illinois with two RBI, including a double in the fourth and a bases-loaded walk in the eighth that put his team ahead 4-3 against Michigan (39-17).