Illinois men’s tennis beats Michigan in the Big Ten conference tournament

By Eric Chima

The Illinois men’s tennis team beat Michigan 4-1 in the Big Ten conference tournament Saturday, avenging a regular season loss and advancing to face Ohio State in Sunday’s final.

The Illini lost 5-2 to the Wolverines in Ann Arbor for one of their two conference losses earlier this year. But they turned things around Saturday in West Lafayette, Ind., dominating the doubles point and playing just well enough in singles to put Michigan away.

Kevin Anderson and Ryan Rowe set the tone early in doubles. The defending national champions were in the unusual position of playing a doubles team ranked higher than them in Michigan’s Brian Hung and Matko Maravich, but the Illini were in control from the outset. Anderson’s serve was nearly untouchable, and the pair’s returns often knocked their smaller opponents right off the net.

All Maravich and Hung could do was laugh ruefully as they were broken four times en route to an 8-2 Illinois win, and Brandon Davis and Ruben Gonzales followed shortly thereafter with an 8-3 win on court two to sweep the doubles.

Singles was a different story, as four matches went to third sets. Gonzales lost quickly at fourth singles, trying the match briefly at 1-1. But Davis, who lost to Michigan’s Steve Peretz the first time the teams met, trounced the Wolverine in the rematch on court six.

That left the Illini up 2-1 as the other four courts all entered their third sets. Senior GD Jones, forced to serve underhand to accommodate a sore shoulder, managed to rear back for one last overhead delivery to close out his fifth singles match. Then Rowe avenged another loss by finishing off Maravich on court two to complete the Illinois win.

Ohio State advanced to the final by sweeping Wisconsin 4-0 earlier in the day. The Buckeyes were undefeated in the Big Ten during the regular season, including a 7-0 sweep of Illinois in Columbus, Ohio.