Men’s tennis wraps up fall season



By Jim Shay

Ryan Rowe capped off yet another stellar fall performance with a runner-up finish at this past weekend’s Intercollegiate Tennis Association Indoor Tennis Championships.

The senior, who became only the third Illini player ever to reach the championship match, won eight out of his first nine sets before falling to the tournament’s top seed and the country’s top-ranked player, Somdev Devvarman of Virginia, in the finals 7-6 (7-2), 6-2.

Devvarman captured his second straight national singles title following his similar success at last year’s NCAA singles championships.

Rowe’s run to the final game featured a first round victory over USC’s Robert Farah, the runner-up in last month’s Polo Ralph Lauren/ITA All-American Championships, as well as a come-from-behind victory over Miami’s Daniel Valverdu in the quarterfinals that the Illini were especially pleased with.

“I lost to him earlier this year,” Rowe said. “He’s a tough player, so being down 5-2 and to be able to come back and get that I’m really proud of myself, to be able to do that, to be able to focus and fight. Because I had lost to him, it was more of a mental battle also.”

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Reaching national finals matches has become a habit for Rowe, as his effort at the ITA Indoors marked the third time he has competed in such a match in his collegiate career.

Last spring, Rowe and former teammate Kevin Anderson became the first duo in history to reach the NCAA doubles championship two years in a row.

The event also officially marked the end of the men’s tennis team’s fall season.

With the dual-match season set to begin in January, Rowe has left very few questions about his abilities unanswered.

“It was a very solid performance throughout the weekend,” assistant coach George Husack said. “I think over the last two tournaments, Ryan has shown a lot of growth and maturity as a player.

“He’s proven he’s one of the best players in the country, and I also think that he proved to himself that when he’s healthy he can play with anybody.”

With the conclusion of a fall season that saw the senior develop into not only one of the premier players throughout the entire country, but the primary leader of the men’s tennis team as well, Rowe expects to experience similar results come springtime.

“Obviously, I’m really confident right now,” Rowe said. “Even though I lost in the final I was ready for the match, I didn’t feel like it was out of my reach. I feel really good about coming into next season.

“I feel like I can still grow a lot, and I feel like with everything that’s changing, and me growing as a person and as a tennis player, that I’m absolutely confident heading into next season, where I’m going to be able to come out and show and hopefully help lead the team to a national title.”

The Illini begin their next drive for the national title when the dual match season gets under way on Jan. 18, when the team is scheduled to host Ball State University at the Atkins Tennis Center.