Men take vengeance in Tenn.

Daily Illini File Photo

By Amber Greviskes

Illinois junior Ryler DeHeart wasn’t thrilled with his performance at the All-American tournament in Chattanooga, Tenn., but he was satisfied.

After all, he and sophomore teammate GD Jones blazed through the doubles tournament to reach the semifinals. En route to the men’s semifinal appearance, where they lost to New Mexico’s David Kowalski and Ryan Stotland 8-6, they avenged two previous losses.

On the first day, the men defeated UCLA’s Alberto Francis and Kris Kwinta 9-8 (4). The Bruins topped Illinois in the semifinals of the NCAA Championships in May, snapping the team’s 64-match winning streak.

Before the match, the men could barely contain their excitement.

“I definitely had to calm GD down, he was so excited,” DeHeart said. “But I was pretty excited too.”

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The UCLA loss had left a bitter taste in the men’s mouths. When UCLA defeated Illinois, DeHeart and Jones were the Illini’s No. 3 duo. Francis and Alberto were UCLA’s top tandem.

“Knowing that we were playing UCLA really helped us get up for the match,” DeHeart said. “It’s gratifying to see our hard work paying off too.”

The duo would see the improvement it has made since the season started as well.

In the second match, they topped Georgia’s John Isner and Antonio Ruiz 8-4. Isner and Ruiz were victorious the last time the teams faced off at the Napa Valley Invitational in September.

“I thought they really stuck to their goals that they were trying to achieve and came away dominating a good team in Isner and Ruiz,” Illinois associate head coach Brad Dancer said in a press release. “They came out extremely focused and were very clear in what they were trying to establish.”

The men did not stop there.

By advancing to the semifinals, they secured a spot at the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor tournament in November. Only senior Chris Martin has competed at the national tournament before. He and former Illini Michael Calkins advanced to the tournament after winning the Midwest Regionals last year. The rest of the Illini could earn a bid into the National Indoor tournament through their performances at the regionals.

Martin competed in this week’s tournament but was slowed by cramps during his first-round singles match. He lost to Federico Veltschi of Montana State 5-7, 7-5, 6-7.

“To come back from being down 4-0 in the second and win the set to stay in the match, on top of what he was going through (cramping), showed what a classy athlete he is,” Dancer said.

Martin did not recover in time to begin play in the consolation bracket. Jones took his place.

“I was a little disappointed with the outcome,” Martin said. “But mentally I did a good job. I could control that part and I made the most of that part. I’ll just learn from that and move on.”

Martin was pleased with Jones’ results. Jones went 3-2 in singles play for the week.

“GD is better than a lot of the guys playing in the singles tournament; it was just a matter of him going out there and proving it,” Martin said.

Martin is also pleased with his and the rest of the team’s progress this season.

“We always need to work on things and improve,” he said. “The fall is all about improvement. We’re not the best in the country – yet.”