Ram only Illinois representative in tourney semis

Illinois´ alumnus Amer Delic returns the ball in a match against Justin Gimelstob in the quarterfinals of the US Tennis Association Challenger Series at Atkins Tennis Center on Nov. 17. Delic lost the match, 6-7(2), 4-6. Josh Birnbaum

Illinois´ alumnus Amer Delic returns the ball in a match against Justin Gimelstob in the quarterfinals of the US Tennis Association Challenger Series at Atkins Tennis Center on Nov. 17. Delic lost the match, 6-7(2), 4-6. Josh Birnbaum

By Amber Greviskes

Two former Illinois All-Americans and two current Illini began the quarterfinals of the 2005 United States Tennis Association Challenger of Champaign-Urbana, but only one advanced.

Former Illinois All-American Rajeev Ram and doubles partner Justin Gimelstob advanced to the semifinals with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over 19-year-olds Scott Oudsema and Phillip Simmonds.

With the victory, Ram returns to at least the semifinals of the tournament for the third straight year. In 2003, Ram and partner Brian Baker were the tournament runners-up. Last year, Ram and Baker won the event.

Ram said it will be important to defend his victory because of the number of ATP points he can accumulate if he wins the doubles title again.

“But more than anything, it would be nice to get a title again, here,” Ram said. “We’ve got to take care of business whenever we play.”

Gimelstob and Ram will take on Cecil Mamiit and Hyung-Taik Lee today. The match is scheduled for 3:30 and admission is free for all students. Ram lost to Lee in the first round of the singles tournament Monday night.

Former Illinois All-American Amer Delic and current Illini Monte Tucker and Marc Spicijaric – the only other Illinois representatives still in the tounament’s main draw as of Thursday night – were not as fortunate.

Spicijaric and Tucker, who were originally not scheduled to participate in the main draw of the tournament, reached the quarterfinals with a victory over Illinois seniors Pramod Dabir and Ryler DeHeart earlier this week. But they were unable to advance to the semifinals.

Former Vanderbilt All-American Bobby Reynolds and Wesley Whitehouse defeated Spicijaric and Tucker 6-3, 6-4.

Reynolds said the Illinois doubles team posed a problem for him with their serve, but he was excited about the victory. This is Reynolds second year competing in Champaign-Urbana, but it is his first year reaching the semifinals.

“It’s the last tournament of the year,” Reynolds said. “So, it’s great to stay around, (and) it’s great to do well in doubles.”

Mamiit topped Reynolds, last week’s singles champion at the Music City Challenger in Nashville, Tenn., in the first round of the singles portion of the tournament.

Reynolds and Whitehouse will play the tournament’s No.1-seeded team of Ashley Fisher and Tripp Phillips at noon today.

Although Spicijaric and Tucker were disappointed in their doubles performance Thursday night, they said their biggest problem was miscommunication.

However, both men said, if they were playing up to their potential, they think the match could have been closer.

“We see that they are doing this for a living and they are good, but they’re nothing special,” Spicijaric said. “They’re very beatable. If we had a better day, I feel that we could have beaten them.”

Both men feel that their ability to play with the intense competition should be valuable in the future.

“We wanted this as much as probably anyone else,” Tucker said. “We just don’t have as much experience.”

Spicijaric may try to enter another challenger event in Orlando, Fla., before the end of the month.

Delic, the other Illinois representative in last night’s tournament action, will compete in Orlando as well, after losing to Gimelstob in the singles quarterfinals. Gimelstob beat Delic 7-6 (2), 6-4 on Thursday night.

Each of the four times Delic has competed against Gimelstob, he has come up short.

“It’s like that every time against him,” Delic said. “It’s not like he comes up with the big shots; it’s my doing every time. But he’s definitely got my number right now.”