After two years of stellar chemistry and play, a pair of tennis players are getting the national recognition they deserve.
Hendrik Inno and Marko Ilic competed in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association championship last season, and now they’re in the national spotlight, as they are ranked eighth nationally in the Preseason ITA Division I Men’s Doubles National Ranking.
“I’ve set my bar pretty high,” Inno said. “I played pretty well last year and the year before. So I think the biggest thing for me is to try to make the most out of it without having any pressure and just to enjoy myself out there.”
The duo attributes much of their success to the relationships within the team and the leadership of the coaching staff — particularly head coach Mauricio Antun.
“I think the coaching relationship works really well with Mauricio being the head coach and director of tennis, managing both programs,” Ilic said. “And then there is Daniel Hester, he’s the new assistant coach, and our stringer is doing his job really well so far. I can see that Mauricio and he are having good communication and are taking this program in the right direction.”
Both Ilic and Inno emphasized the importance of the team’s achievements as a whole for a sport often recognized for individual achievement.
“I feel like me, Marko, or Felix could be the OVC player of the year,” Inno said. “So I think that’s a great thing to have such a strong top of the lineup.”
Ilic echoed this sentiment, noting that accountability is a major factor in a team sport like tennis.
“So just holding each other accountable to do the work, not to joke around in practice. And also in matches, just to communicate well — if we see that one guy is not feeling as great that day then other guys could come together and step up.”
Players like Inno and Ilic don’t just earn victories for themselves or their team — they represent the school. Both see this season as an opportunity to bring attention to Belmont sports, especially the university’s smaller athletic programs.
“Coming from such a small school who’s not really known for their athletics besides the basketball program, I think it means a lot because tennis is getting more and more recognized in the school as well as outside the school,” Inno said. “The other big state schools, they see who Belmont is, and what we stand for, and what kind of values we have here. And I think that’s a great thing for us individually as well as for Belmont.”
Ilic is also hopeful for the future of Belmont athletics, expressing optimism for the university’s up-and-coming athletic programs.
“I think in the future, Belmont will be recognized among the states in college sports, so this is just a small step toward something bigger.”
This article written by Evan Dorian. Photo courtesy of Belmont Athletics.