Illini duo heads to Vegas for UNLV Fall Classic

Ryan Rowe hits a baseline shot during practice at Atkins Tennis Center on Sept. 13. Nick Kohout

Ryan Rowe hits a baseline shot during practice at Atkins Tennis Center on Sept. 13. Nick Kohout

By Amber Greviskes

Ryan Rowe, a sophomore on the Illinois men’s tennis team, has never been to Las Vegas before, but this year’s UNLV men’s tennis Fall Classic provides him the opportunity to experience top-level tennis competition as well as the excitement the city of Las Vegas has to offer.

The men will play against top competition from Oklahoma, Alabama, UNLV, Tennessee, Fresno State and East Tennessee State.

Rowe and Ruben Gonzales will represent the Illini this weekend, while head Coach Brad Dancer has the opportunity to see some of his former prodigies this weekend when he sees the Fresno State athletes.

Dancer coached at Fresno State before becoming the associate head coach at Illinois in 2004.

Both Gonzales and Rowe said they were excited about this weekend and their opportunity to take place in both singles and doubles competition.

“I’m planning on just being more aggressive,” Rowe said. “I’m really excited about playing doubles together.”

Because just the two Illinois athletes are traveling with Illinois head coach Brad Dancer, they both expect to get extra attention and are ready to prove themselves to their coach.

“I’m just going in and trying to improve on the things that I have been working on in practice,” Rowe said.

Gonzales seconded the idea that working on improvement, instead of focusing on the results would be crucial to a good weekend – as well as good results at the end of the weekend.

But, Gonzales said, the hype of the city would be much less likely to faze him because he has been to Las Vegas many times before. Still, because Rowe and Gonzales are focused on the goal at hand, the distractions in the city that could pop up are minimal.

“I think it’s going to be a great experience,” Gonzales said.

Illinois sophomore Brandon Davis was originally scheduled to make the trip as well, but could not – so the men will play doubles together as well as singles.

“My goals are to play as many matches as I possibly can,” Gonzales said. “And, to play a lot of matches, we have to win a lot of matches.”

The men said they also feel they have a good chemistry together for doubles and should be able to capitalize on their results as well as the improvements they have made since the last time they took to the courts. Dancer agrees that the Illini will have a chance to capitalize on their ability to play this weekend.

Rowe has not had as many opportunities to compete in singles as some of the other athletes, Dancer said. However, he said that Rowe should have an opportunity to do well against the ranked players in the top flight.

Dancer also said it will be nice to watch the men perform outdoors again, especially because they are trying so hard to peak for the NCAA Championships – the season-ending team, singles and doubles tournaments – in May.

“Ruben is testy, he wants it,” Dancer said. “They’re both making good strides, we’ll see if they can implement it in tournament play. We’ll see what happens with doubles.”