LSU Men's Tennis vs Purdue

LSU men's tennis sophomore Benjamin Ambrosio focuses before the serve Sunday, Feb. 13, 2021 during LSU's 6-1 win over Purdue at the LSU Tennis Complex on Gourrier Avenue in Baton Rouge, La.

No. 41 LSU (13-9, 3-7 SEC) has the chance to finish the regular season strong at home with two matchups that could provide indication as to whether or not the Tigers will advance far in the SEC tournament. Coming off a brief slump in which the team has lost four of their last five, these matches will be important for LSU’s momentum as the conference tourney approaches.  

After a solid March run that saw the team peak at No. 38 in the country, the team faced a bump in the road, as many of its upcoming matches came against skillful foes. No. 5 Tennessee, No. 3 Florida, No. 11 Georgia and No. 21 Texas A&M were on the team’s slate for late March to early April and combined to outscore LSU 22-1 in those matchups.  

LSU was not expected to win these matches, but the Tigers were expected to put up more of a fight. Texas A&M in particular was a more evenly matched opponent than the others, though not by much.  

That run in March is on the backburners now, as two losses this weekend would be severely detrimental for a team whose momentum has taken blow after blow over the past three weeks. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s opponents. 

Kentucky 

The Wildcats are the first of LSU’s opponents this weekend and by far the toughest team of the two, sitting at No. 10 in ITA’s most recent rankings and sporting a 17-6 record despite one of the toughest schedules in the country. It’s hard to imagine LSU scoring a point in this one, much less obtaining a victory. 

Kentucky has faced ten straight opponents that currently rank in the top-50, five of which are in the top-11. They lost just three of those, getting bested by of Florida, No. 6 Virginia and No. 9 South Carolina (by a combined deficit of –4). 

Kentucky's most recent victories came against Tennessee and Georgia, quieting any talks regarding the Wildcats being a second-fiddle team in the SEC and highlighting the fact that this team is catching on fire at the best time imaginable. It could be argued that they are one the best teams in the conference and they could realistically contend for the conference title. 

Their roster features four ranked singles players, most notably No. 13 Gabriel Diallo and No. 21 Liam Draxl. In LSU’s last matchup with the Wildcats, Ronnie Hohmann faced Draxl at a time when he was contending for the No. 1 ranking in singles.  

That match was one of Hohmann’s most impressive, but it unfortunately did not finish due to the match already being clinched by Kentucky. The Tiger held a 3-2 lead in the third set when the match concluded. 

That potential rematch is worth keeping an eye on, and Draxl has kept his spot at Court 1 despite the emergence of his teammate, Diallo. Other than that, LSU’s depth could surprise us, but a lot needs to go LSU’s way in order for them to pull this one off.  

Arkansas 

The Razorbacks are a lot more comparable to LSU, evident by the minuscule gap between the teams in overall rankings. That should result in a great match, as each team will be fighting for one last momentum boost before the postseason.  

While LSU experienced its win streak in March, Arkansas was experiencing its slump. The difference is that the Razorbacks faced five of the best teams in the SEC in a row as opposed to LSU’s three. They managed keep it close against Kentucky, like LSU did against South Carolina, but preceded to score a combined three points against Florida, Tennessee, South Carolina and Georgia.

The big difference between these teams’ conference schedules has clearly been their structures, as Arkansas’s was top-heavy and resulted in a slow start while LSU was able to garner wins and momentum early. The problem is that as LSU’s schedule was picking up in terms of difficulty, Arkansas’ was calming down. 

The result of Arkansas having a four-match win streak heading into the matchup means the Razorbacks will be playing with more confidence and momentum than the Tigers.  

Couple that with a player at Court 1 in No. 58 Alex Reco that can realistically match up with Ronnie Hohmann and you have the potential for a very tough match, one that’s absolutely worth watching.  

Both matches will take place at the LSU Tennis Complex, with LSU facing off against Kentucky at 5 p.m. on Friday and Arkansas at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday.  

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