The first real test of the season came on Saturday for the North Carolina men's tennis team, and the Tar Heels aced it.
In a battle between top-10 teams, No. 10 UNC shut out No. 7 Illinois 4-0 on Saturday at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center, as the Fighting Illini (4-1) could not overcome the Tar Heels’ quickness and power.
The top-ranked duo of senior Brett Clark and sophomore Robert Kelly opened the match with a 6-4 victory in doubles. And after UNC dropped the match on Court No. 3, juniors Jack Murray and Brayden Schnur won a tiebreaker to claim the match 7-6(3).
By clinching the crucial doubles point, North Carolina (5-0) entered the singles portion of the match with a 1-0 lead and needing only three wins in the six singles matches to secure the victory.
Kelly and Clark quickly posted wins in their singles matches, as both players defeated their opponents by scores of 6-4, 6-3. With the two victories, UNC needed only one more to win the match.
And like they did in doubles, the Tar Heels turned to Murray.
Murray dominated the first set against No. 67 Julian Childers, winning it 6-0. But after Childers reversed the score in his second-set win, Coach Sam Paul pulled Murray aside in between sets to calm the junior.
Paul’s words recharged Murray — who returned to dominance in the third set, winning 6-1 and clinching the contest for the Tar Heels.
Because Murray cemented the win for North Carolina, Schnur, junior Ronnie Schneider and first-year Anu Kodali did not have the chance to finish their singles matches.
“We learned a lot about ourselves, and we’re fighters. Everyone did a great job, and we also learned that we can play with the best of them.” — Murray on building confidence with the victory.
A crowd of approximately 350 fans attended Saturday's match. In addition to a large Illinois contingent, members of the North Carolina field hockey, gymnastics, men's soccer and women’s tennis teams were also in attendance.
Three numbers that matter
5: The Tar Heels have won their first five matches to open the season, having outscored their opponents 24-4.
1: Saturday's win over the Fighting Illini marked UNC's first against a higher-ranked opponent this season.
2: Clark and Murray's wins in singles gave the Tar Heels victories over two ranked opponents.
The Tar Heels host No. 2 Oklahoma at 1 p.m. on Feb. 7 at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. The Sooners will represent the highest-ranked opponent North Carolina has faced this season.
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