Anderson dominates freshman Nevolo in battle of Illini past and present

By Alex Iniguez

The only thing close to beating former Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson on Tuesday night was his nose. The South African suffered a bloody nose midway through the first set against current Illini freshman Dennis Nevolo before winning the match, 6-2, 6-1.

After a 15-minute delay in which Anderson and his trainer tried to stop the bleeding, Anderson closed out the first set with wins in three straight games.

“My nose produces more mucus than anything, and I’ve had a really bad cold,” Anderson said. “So when you combine the two it takes a lot of nose-blowing, and something just got caught in my nose. It was pretty scary. I mean, if it doesn’t stop, I think there are some rules. You can’t be playing if there’s blood on the court. Fortunately my trainer pointed out some things to try and stop it, and luckily it stopped.”

Anderson started out the match with some jitters before the delay. Nevolo only trailed 3-2 before Anderson called for the timeout. The 22-year-old attributed some of the rustiness to the atmosphere.

“I’m always a little on-edge coming out,” Anderson said. “Obviously, coming through, being older, and he’s now the new generation of Illinois tennis. I just took it out, and just kept saying this was just another tennis match.”

The second set, however, was all Anderson. Nevolo could only muster one game as Anderson cruised to victory.

“One of his strengths is return of serve, almost more so than his own serve ,” Anderson said of Nevolo. “For me, it was about focusing on my own serve.”

Despite the score, Nevolo said the match was important for his continued development on the court. He also said he thought he played better as the match wore on.

“He’s just so tough to play against, because he has that huge serve” Nevolo said of Anderson. “And even when he returns, he returns well. He hits pretty heavy on both sides, so you’re always under pressure. I get to gain the experience of playing in a tournament like this against a player like him.”

Nevolo said the two regularly play each other in practice but this match brought their competition to a whole new level. According to the freshman, Anderson goes into another gear when it comes to tournament matches.

“It’s different,” Nevolo said. “Obviously because of the nerves, but he plays a little tougher in a match like this.”

The freshman got his first primetime taste of Atkins Tennis Center, and he did it with the crowd on his side. The fans in attendance were pulling for the underdog, even if Nevolo couldn’t secure the win.

“I’m happy; this is my first big match here,” Nevolo said. “It’s actually pretty cool to get to play him and see the crowd come out.”