No. 7 Illini tennis comeback attempt falls short

After a rain delay of an hour and 10 minutes, it was only fitting that the match between No. 7 Illinois and No. 18 Texas A&M; came down to the very end.

Senior Brian Livingston traded sets with Texas A&M;’s Colin Hoover before Hoover prevailed Sunday afternoon, 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.

Livingston could not hold off Hoover despite a 5-1 lead in the third set, and the Aggies topped the Illini, 4-3, in College Station, Texas.

“I’m disappointed in the final outcome,” Illinois head coach Brad Dancer said. “We played well in certain spots and then didn’t capitalize on opportunities in other spots. It at least seemed like we controlled the match, but at the end of the day, we just didn’t win.”

Illinois (13-4) found itself down 2-0 early after losing the doubles point and a quick singles match but stormed back to take the next three singles matches and a 3-2 lead. Junior Meedo El Tabakh put the Illini ahead with a 7-5, 6-1 win.

Tied at 3-3, the Illini appeared to be in good position to capture their third win without the doubles point this season in Livingston’s final set.

Instead, Texas A&M; (6-5) sent the Orange and Blue home with an upset loss.

“I didn’t see that much of Meedo’s match,” Dancer said. “But I thought he served well and controlled the tempo. He pulled out that first set and then got back to changing things up, which was good.”

Ruan Roelofse led the way with a straight-set win for Illinois.

The freshman scorched Marcus Lunt, 6-3, 6-0, to pace the comeback efforts.

Sophomore Roy Kalmanovich followed shortly after with another quick win.

The Framingham, Mass., native, ranked No. 29, finished off Alexey Grigorov, 6-3, 6-2, minutes after Roelofse’s victory.

“I came out pretty fired up,” Kalmanovich said. “I didn’t really know what to expect but my goal was just to keep the ball on the court and play high percentage tennis. I thought I did that pretty well.”

In doubles play, the Illini jumped out to a fast start with a win at the No. 3 spot.

Freshman Dennis Nevolo and Kalmanovich beat Lunt and Austin Klores, 8-3.

The Aggies fought back at the top two positions, including an 8-4 defeat of Roelofse and Livingston at the No. 2 spot, to take the doubles point and the lead.

“We got off to a very slow start in our match,” Livingston said.

“We started with some holds but couldn’t get it done. Three doubles played very well and served well but I didn’t see much of what was going on with one doubles.

“And then between doubles and singles, we were all really relaxed and confident we’d win, to be honest.”