Delic, Anderson reach second round

By Amber Greviskes

Amer Delic took his first step in the road back to the singles semifinals Tuesday night at the United States Tennis Association Challenger of Champaign-Urbana.

Delic, who won Illinois’ first and only NCAA singles title in 2003, defeated Michael Russell 7-6 (5), 6-4.

“It was good to get the first win under my belt,” Delic said. “It definitely wasn’t easy – he’s a tough player.”

Throughout the first set, Delic struggled a little, but was able to utilize his powerful serve to win both the set and the match.

“I don’t think without the serve I would be standing here talking to you right now,” Delic said. “But it’s still a ‘W.’ So I’ll take it.”

Delic will play tonight not before 6:30. But he is not the only Illini to advance in the singles portion of the tournament.

Illinois sophomore Kevin Anderson will play today as well after defeating Jan-Michael Gambill on Tuesday. Gambill defaulted to Anderson when he was leading 2-1 in the first set, citing a right shoulder injury.

Anderson will now have to play both his second-round singles match and his first main draw doubles match today. The singles match is scheduled to take place at 3 p.m.

He will play singles against defending champion Justin Gimelstob, who is a former UCLA standout. Gimelstob is also a two-time winner of the challenger hosted at the Atkins Tennis Center. In Anderson’s evening match that will start not before 6:30, he will join Illinois sophomore Brandon Davis to play the Australian duo of Chris Guccione and Nathan Healey.

Anderson is the first current Illinois athlete to reach the second round of the challenger’s main draw. But, he is trying to focus on the matches as they come and not worry about doubles while playing singles or his singles results while playing doubles.

Davis said he is “raring to go” after having a couple days off of comepetition. He also said he feels that he and Anderson were fortunate to have played doubles together this weekend during the qualifying tournament because they had not played together for months.

“He’s been hurt, so it was good to get some rhythm,” Davis said. “It just helped us make sure we were meshing well together.”

Tonight, the men will focus on continuing to go after each shot and playing with no fear. Davis said the men must remember that they are just as good as the other athletes on the court if they are to be successful.

Although they are planning to rely on the crowd support at the Atkins Tennis Center to help them pull through some difficult points, they are not worried about the challenges that Anderson will have to face playing multiple matches during the day, Davis said.

“I’m pretty used to it,” Anderson said. “I’m not too tired, I only played three games (on Tuesday).”

Several other current and former Illini are expected to compete tonight as well. Seniors Ryler DeHeart and Pramod Dabir are scheduled to play Goran Dragicevic and Gambill, during one of the last tournament matches of the night. However, as of press time, the match looked “highly doubtful.”

DeHeart sprained his ankle Monday night in a three-set loss to Brian Baker. Gambill withdrew from his Tuesday night match with a right shoulder injury.

Brian Wilson, who earned a place in Illinois history by becoming the team’s first top-ranked player, will join forces with Alex Kuznetsov to take on Cecil Mamiit and Hyung-Taik Lee. Their doubles match is slated for not before 5 p.m. Lee defeated former Illini Rajeev Ram 6-7 (6), 6-2, 6-4 Tuesday night.

This will be the first time Wilson and Kuznetsov will play together, but Wilson is confident the team will click. The former Illini has a strong serve, while Kuznetsov will have the stronger of the two returns.

“We should be a good combo and we’re looking forward to it,” Wilson said. “Obviously, it helps when you have people here, but you’ve got to get it done on the court. We play a tough team, but we’re trying to get a ‘W.'”