Former Illini make history

Online Poster

By Amber Greviskes

Former Illinois All-Americans Amer Delic and Rajeev Ram re-established their place in Illinois tennis history Wednesday night.

On Wednesday, the men became the first current or former Illini to reach the quarterfinals of the Northwestern Mutual/Wright Financial Group USTA Challenger.

“I’m happy for Amer, I’m happy for Raj,” said Illinois head coach and tournament director Craig Tiley.

Delic defeated former Miami standout Todd Widom 7-5, 6-2. Ram’s match was a little more hotly contested. Ram beat four-time NCAA champion Paul Goldstein. Ram topped Goldstein 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (4).

“It’s a good win; he’s played on the tour for a while, had a lot of experience,” Ram said.

Goldstein is not only a seasoned veteran, but also a friend of Ram’s. The men played for the Delaware Smash, a World Team Tennis team.

“For me, it’s just about my tennis and what is on my side of the net,” Ram said.

However, Ram said, Goldstein’s classy approach to tennis and great sportsmanship made the match easier.

“I’m happy for Raj because maybe he can make this a breakthrough event for him,” Tiley said.

Throughout his short professional career, Ram has been more well-known for his doubles prowess. He is one of the 2003 NCAA doubles champions.

Today, Ram and Brian Baker face Travis Rettenmaier and Adam Seri at 6 p.m.

But before that match, Ram will get the chance to jump-start his singles career. In the quarterfinals at 3 p.m., he will take on Justin Gimelstob.

Gimelstob has already defeated several Illini. He topped Illinois junior Ryler DeHeart on Tuesday night. He beat Delic in the finals of the Nashville Challenger last week.

“He’s a veteran, he knows what he’s doing, so I need to come out and play well,” Ram said.

Illinois associate head coach Brad Dancer, who coached both Goldstein and Ram with the Smash, said Ram’s best tennis is still ahead.

“I thought he could have done a little more damage,” Dancer said.

Delic’s win over Widom was important as well. Delic looked more confident and comfortable on the court Wednesday night. He lost the uncertainty that plagued him earlier this week.

“(The first match) is the biggest hurdle for me,” Delic said. “I just have to do it one more time tomorrow.”

Delic said he plays better against right-handed players, which helped him in Wednesday night’s match.

He is excited about today’s match-up too. He will take on Janko Tipsarevic at approximately 5:30 p.m. Delic and Tipsarevic last faced each other at the U.S. Open, which Delic won 6-1, 6-3, 6-4.

“I know how he plays and I know what he does well,” Delic said.

Illinois’ only current athletes competing Wednesday, junior Ryler DeHeart and sophomore GD Jones, were less successful.

The men lost to Florin Mergea and Tipsarevic. Mergea and Tipsarevic won 3-6, 6-1, 6-4.

“Overall, it was disappointing because I think they are maybe stronger doubles players than the other team,” Dancer said. “But it was a matter of execution.”

Jones was disappointed in his serving, but said the men’s return had improved.

“I’m pretty pissed off that we lost because its a big opportunity for us,” Jones said.

Former Illinois All-American Brian Wilson lost to Cecil Mamiit in singles 6-1, 7-6(3), Wednesday. Wilson’s doubles results were not available at press time.

Still, the men recognized that advancing to the quarterfinals is a good sign of the Illinois tennis program’s progress and development.

“A few years ago we were happy if one of the guys won a round or two in the qualies,” Delic said. “And now there are guys in the quarterfinals.”