April 24, 2014
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - The 34th-ranked Purdue men's tennis team will look to continue its historic run as the postseason gets underway at the Big Ten Tournament hosted by Michigan State Thursday - Sunday in East Lansing, Mich. The Boilermakers earned the No. 4 seed thanks to their 7-4 mark in conference play and have received a first-round bye into Friday's quarterfinals. They'll take to the court at 10 a.m. ET against the winner of a first round matchup between fifth-seeded Northwestern and the No. 12 seed Iowa.
The three other teams to join Purdue (15-6, 7-4 Big Ten) with first-round byes include Ohio State, Illinois and Penn State. The Buckeyes (27-3, 11-0 Big Ten) claimed the outright conference title, its ninth consecutive Big Ten Championship, and the No. 1 seed in the tournament. The Fighting Illini (20-7, 9-2 Big Ten) are seeded second and the Nittany Lions (21-4, 8-3 Big Ten) are the No. 3 seed.
In addition to Northwestern and Iowa, Purdue's half of the bracket includes top-seeded Ohio State, No. 8 seed Michigan State and No. 9 seed Nebraska. The Boilermakers defeated both of their potential opponents during the regular season. Mateus Silva clinched the 4-3 upset of the 24th-ranked Wildcats with a thrilling 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 victory at No. 6 on March 7. Purdue was ranked 54th when they took down Northwestern and it was that win that ignited the team's climb in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association's (ITA) rankings. The following week the Boilermakers jumped 14 spots to No. 40. Purdue, ranked 33rd at the time, defeated Iowa, 5-2, in Iowa City on April 4.
The Old Gold & Black reeled in the doubles point in both matches, including an 8-3 upending of the then-21st-ranked Wildcat duo of Mihir Kumar and Raleigh Smith by Aaron Dujovne and Diego Acosta playing at No. 1 doubles. The Northwestern tandem enters the tournament ranked 28th. Both of the Wildcats' ranked singles players, Smith and Sam Shropshire, were victorious in the March 7 dual match. They continue to occupy a spot on the national rankings with Smith currently listed at No. 46 and Shropshire at No. 120.
Dujovne and Acosta assumed the No. 2 doubles position, while Szymon Tatarczyk and Ricky Medinilla moved to No. 1 against the Hawkeyes. The Boilermakers prevailed at Nos. 1 and 3 doubles and won at Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 6 singles. Iowa's Jonas Dierckx was unranked when Tatarczyk dealt him a 6-4, 6-2 loss, but he comes into the Big Ten Tournament ranked 124th.
When Northwestern and the Hawkeyes collided on April 4, it was the Wildcats emerging with a 5-2 victory. Northwestern is ranked 32nd and brings a seven-match winning streak into the tournament. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Iowa has lost 11 straight, all of which have been in Big Ten play. The Boilermakers are looking to snap their three-match losing streak when it matters most. In the final weekend of the regular season, they suffered consecutive 5-2 setbacks at Michigan State and then-No. 49 Michigan.
Tatarczyk and Medinilla are spending their third week on the ITA doubles rankings. The pair checks in at No. 73 and carries an 8-4, 5-4 Big Ten record into the postseason. Medinilla is one of five Purdue players that have tallied double-digit singles victories. The freshman hailing from Mexico City, Mexico, sports an 11-8 mark. Silva and senior Mark Kovacs lead the way with 15 wins each. Acosta and Dujovne each have 14 wins to their credit. Dujovne has a team-best 9-2 mark against Big Ten foes, while Kovacs and Silva are 8-3.
First round matches and quarterfinals will be contested at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Thursday and Friday, respectively. The semifinals are set for Saturday at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., with the championship match slated for 12 p.m. Sunday. Ten of the 12 teams are nationally ranked, as are 14 singles players and 10 doubles teams. Michigan State is the only team in the tournament that does not have at least one ranked singles player or doubles team.
Starting in 2009, the Big Ten's regular season winner was declared the Big Ten Champion and the tournament was used to determine the Big Ten Tournament Champion and NCAA automatic qualifier. Only two teams have won the Big Ten Tournament crown since then. Ohio State has won it four times (2009, 2010, 2011, 2013) and Illinois has won it once (2012).
During head coach Pawel Gajdzik's four years at the helm, his team has made two quarterfinal appearances and has been bounced from the first round twice. Purdue has also faced Iowa twice during the four-year span. The No. 4 seed is the highest any of his teams have received. Last year as the No. 9 seed, the Boilermakers opened with a 4-0 win over eighth-seeded Wisconsin, but were then blanked 4-0 by top-seeded Ohio State in the quarterfinals.