University athletes deserve more support


The Daily Illini File Photo

Junior Kevin Anderson keeps his eye on the ball during his 6-3, 6-1 win over Iowa’s Bart van Monsjou sunday, April 22, 2007 at the Atkins Tennis Center.

By Saketh Vasamsetti, Columnist

Earlier this month, 16-time grand slam winner Rafael Nadal faced off in the US Open final against Illinois alumnus Kevin Anderson, who competed in his first ever Grand Slam final.

Although the match fell to Nadal in a very one-sided competition, 31-year-old Anderson was able to breathe new air as he looks to make a run for the top 10 in the Association of Tennis Professionals rankings.

The day before the match, the University football team played a home game against Western Kentucky. During one of the game breaks, everyone’s eyes turned to the big screen to see a commercial commemorating Anderson on reaching the US Open final.

Not many people watch tennis, but even fewer may know that Anderson was a three-time All-American in singles and a two-time All-American in doubles during his three years at the University.

Although Anderson may be one of the most notable names out of U of I tennis, the program has consistently been a strong team as they’ve been inside the top 20 since January 2014.

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When compared to the University’s more popular sports like football and basketball, tennis and other less popular sports have proven that they deserve just as much recognition by consistently being better.

The last time the Illinois football team reached a major bowl game was in 2007 and the last time the team was ranked was in 2011. The basketball team hasn’t been ranked since 2014 and the last time they received a tournament bid was in 2012. To an outsider it may seem ridiculous that there is an enormous difference in terms of funding between these two sports and other more successful ones.

The men’s golf team was ranked No. 5 in the nation as of August 2017. The men’s gymnastics team holds the No. 4 spot while the women’s team is ranked No. 19. The wrestling team is ranked No. 9 in the NCAA standings.

Various sports here at the University have made statements in the NCAA as dominant programs that will excel for years to come, yet the public’s attention remains on two sports.

Athletes work hard and make sacrifices to keep up with academics as well as performing at a high level. But the word “athletes” includes all sports, not just the sports people want to see more. It’s common to hear people claim “cheerleading is not a sport” or that some sports are valued over others. But regardless, each athlete’s commitment to his or her sport is all the same. The public opinion that certain sports do not matter needs to change in order for those athletic programs to grow and prosper.

However, the entire blame cannot be placed on the general public for the overgrown popularity of football and basketball. Going to a football or basketball game just seems like a better time than going to watch a tennis or golf match. But, when players are working day in and day out to continue their stellar performances to maintain such high rankings, it is the university’s and the students’ duty to provide them the proper exposure.

Anderson may have lost one of the most important matches in his life, but hearing that the University recognized his achievement definitely would motivate him to strive for more. That same motivation must be given to every athlete despite differences in their sport’s popularity.

It starts with us students to support players and provide all of the athletes at our University the moral support needed to make the Orange and Blue proud.

Saketh is a sophomore in DGS.

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