Davis, Spicijaric to represent Illini in prestigious event

By Eric Chima

When play begins at the Racquet Club Collegiate Invitational in Midland, Texas, tomorrow, Illinois men’s tennis player Brandon Davis will have some unaccustomed fans in attendance: his family.

Davis, a native Texan, will join sophomore Marc Spicijaric at the invitational, a single-elimination tournament featuring top players from around the country. For Davis, it will be a rare opportunity for his parents to see him play. His mother will fly up from Lubbock, and his father is hoping to get Saturday off work to watch him play.

“It’ll be good just to see them and just to hang out with them,” Davis said. “I don’t get to see them very much, so it’s nice to have them here and have their support.”

Davis will be tested early against Clancy Shields of Boise State, a powerful baseliner who has spent over a year playing as an amateur on the professional tour, head coach Brad Dancer said.

“Clancy is a very good player,” Dancer said. “Brandon’s going to have to keep the ball low, out of Clancy’s strike zone, and get into transition because that’s his game.”

Spicijaric has a bye in the first round but could face David Galic of Baylor in the second round, a left-hander with a big serve. No matter who Spicijaric plays, Dancer said, his results will depend on how well he returns serve.

Dancer said he thought the Illini were capable of meeting each other in the finals, but there will be a lot of tests along the way. Both players will look to build off momentum they gathered last week at the Scott Treibly Invitational, where Spicijaric finished undefeated.

“I ended last week really well, and I’ve got to just try to carry it into this week,” Spicijaric said. “I’ve been working on a few things with Brad, and I’m just looking to return well and play solid.”

Only Davis and Spicijaric are playing in the tournament because of NCAA rules limiting the number of events collegiate players play in, Dancer said. Billy Heiser and Ryan Rowe will play in a small tournament at Atkins Tennis Center this weekend to try to gain entry into the qualifying draw at Illinois’s professional Challenger event in November.

The Illini have played in the Invitational in the past, but this will be their first appearance under Dancer, who took over the team last year. It is a coed event, and Dancer said the school would consider sending both the men’s and women’s teams next year.

“Scott Stewart, who puts the event on, (has) got a lot of professional ties,” Dancer said. “The kids get treated like royalty here, and it’s a really special, unique event.”