Illinois senior wins consolation title

By Amber Greviskes

Illinois senior Ryler DeHeart had every reason to be both disappointed and elated on Sunday afternoon.

He had won the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Indoor Championship’s consolation singles title – unfortunately for DeHeart, he was the defending main draw champion and was slightly disappointed he could not grab the title two years in a row.

“I was obviously disappointed, but I was pretty happy that I turned it around,” DeHeart said. “That’s just the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.”

DeHeart beat Duke’s Jonathan Stokke 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-4 to win the consolation event at the Racquet Club of Columbus, Ohio – the tournament was hosted by Big Ten rival Ohio State. DeHeart said the highlight of his weekend was his lone straight-set victory over Virginia’s Treat Huey 6-3, 6-4. He was also pleased with the end result considering it was the first time he had competed since early October.

While competing in October, DeHeart earned an automatic entry into the ITA National Indoor Singles Championship, by virtue of his placement at the ITA/Polo Ralph Lauren All-American Championships.

Last season, he was only the second unseeded player at the tournament to win the title in the last 10 years. He was also the first Illini to take home the singles crown at that event.

This year, DeHeart was trying to become only the third player to repeat as men’s singles champion. He would have been the first repeat champion since 1994-95 when Arizona State’s Sargis Sargsian accomplished the feat.

“I was a little unsure of myself when I started,” DeHeart said. “Had I played that first-round match later in the tournament, it might have been a different story.”

Illinois head coach Brad Dancer said he was impressed by the way the senior captain battled back from a disappointing first-round loss.

“That is just Ryler (DeHeart),” Dancer said. “I’m just so proud of him that he was able to bounce back – I’m sure it means the world to him.”

Although DeHeart’s win was exciting, he said he was more excited that he had someone to share the win with. Teammates Marc Spicijaric and Monte Tucker were on hand to watch DeHeart defeat Stokke.

Spicijaric, a freshman, and Tucker, a sophomore, were knocked out of the ITA National Indoor Championships’ doubles tournament earlier this weekend.

Spicijaric and Tucker lost to Middle Tennessee’s Marco Born and Andreas Siljestrom 8-9 (5). The Middle Tennessee duo, the tournament’s No. 1-seeded doubles pair, reached the finals of the tournament, but lost to Ross Wilson and Scott Green from Ohio State. Green and Wilson were defending ITA National Indoors doubles champions.

“I think they (the Illinois doubles team) did pretty well this weekend,” DeHeart said. “They had match point against the ‘Twin Towers,’ they just had a couple of bad breaks.”

Born and Siljestrom are both 6-foot-9 and tower above their competition – including Spicijaric, who is 5-foot-10, and Tucker who is six feet tall.

All of the Illini plan to return to Champaign refreshed, though. DeHeart will be among several former and current Illinois tennis players to compete in the 2005 United States Tennis Association Challenger of Champaign-Urbana.

“I have a feeling my best times in tennis are still ahead of me,” DeHeart said.