Tennis trips in Madison after sweep of Wildcats

 

 

By Alex Iniguez

After coasting to an easy 7-0 win without dropping a set at Northwestern on Saturday, the Illinois men’s tennis team had a more difficult time Sunday, losing 5-2 to Wisconsin in Madison. The loss dropped the No. 16 Illini to 10-6 and 3-1 in the Big Ten, while the No. 45 Badgers improved to 12-7 and 4-1 with their victory.

“It was a tough match,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “I didn’t realize it, but we haven’t won a match when we’ve lost the doubles point, so I think we might not have the confidence to come back in singles play.”

As is the case with almost all of the team’s losses, the Illini could not secure the doubles point Sunday. The No. 22-ranked team of Billy Heiser and Ryan Rowe continued their impressive play by winning their sixth straight doubles match, an 8-3 triumph against Moritz Baumann and Nolan Polley, to finish off a perfect record in March. Wisconsin’s Michael Dierberger and Luke Rassow-Kantor were too much for the No. 32 duo of Brandon Davis and Ruben Gonzales to handle, as Dierberger and Rassow-Kantor won by an 8-6 score to help Wisconsin clinch the doubles point.

“I think we felt really comfortable going into doubles (Sunday),” Dancer said. “But we really put ourselves in the hole. Heiser and Rowe played well. Rowe served more aggressively and they focused throughout and they did a good job against Northwestern as well.”

In singles play, junior Marc Spicijaric completed a solid weekend with a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Jeremy Sonkin, following Saturday’s win against Northwestern’s Alexander Thams. Rowe, ranked No. 9 nationally, was the only other Illini to tally a point with his win against No. 44 Baumann, 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3. Wisconsin’s No. 99 Polley defeated No. 80 Gonzales 3-6, 6-4, 6-4 to seal the match victory for the Badgers. Waylon Chin could not close out his match after winning his first set and leading 5-4 in his second set.

“Waylon had a chance to close out his match pretty handily and didn’t do that,” Dancer said. “You just don’t know how that affects the overall psyche of the team. Rowe and Ruben had chances to close out their matches in two sets. It’s those things that, in a way, keep the other team hanging around, and that’s what happened in the match.”

The Illini will need to recover quickly, as they are headed to Lexington, Ky., to battle the Kentucky Wildcats on Wednesday.