Two former Illini advance to Wimbledon main draw

The qualifying rounds for Wimbledon began with 16 doubles teams and 128 individuals. They ended with four doubles teams, 16 individuals and two former Illini.

After four Illini competed in the Wimbledon gentlemen’s qualifying rounds, Rajeev Ram and Kevin Anderson advanced to the main draw, which kicked off Monday at 4 a.m. central time.

“I think in the eyes of US fans, (Wimbledon) is THE tournament that people look out for. I’m really proud of both Rajeev and Kevin for them to get through,” said Brad Dancer, Illinois men’s tennis head coach.

Former Illini Amer Delic and Ryler DeHeart were eliminated in the first and second rounds the gentlemen’s qualifying singles, respectively. Anderson was eliminated by No. 2 seed Simon Greul.

Though falling in singles, Anderson also teamed up with former University of Virginia star Somdev Devvarman to compete in the gentleman’s qualifying doubles draw. The two overcame the No. 8-seeded duo of Sergei Bubka and Sergiy Stakovski and then defeated Alessandro Motti and Joseph Sirianni to advance to the doubles main draw.

“I think Kevin’s obviously disappointed in singles,” Dancer said. “But when that happens you’ve got to do the best you can and rebound, and so he’ll give himself a chance in the doubles, and you know he did pretty well there last year too in doubles.”

Anderson and partner Robert Lindstedt made it as far as the quarterfinals at last years’ Wimbledon.

Anderson and Devvarman are set to compete against Mahesh Bhupathi and Mark Knowles in first-round main draw play. Dancer believes that the duo will represent collegiate tennis well.

“It’s kind of fun that (Anderson) and Somdev, two former rivals in the collegiate circuit, (are) playing together. And you know, if you’re looking for ambassadors for college tennis and who you’d want in there, maybe … there’s no two better guys than Kevin and Somdev out there,” he said.

Ram advanced to the main draw after defeating No. 18 seed Lamine Ouahab, Sam Warburg and Andrea Stoppini in singles qualifying. Dancer believes Ram’s strengths, specifically his talent when playing on grass, could take him far at Wimbledon.

“(Ram’s) not a guy that anybody would be looking to compete against, I don’t think. He’s just very, very good on that type of surface,” Dancer said.

Ram’s first test in the main draw will be Germany’s Philipp Petzchner. Dancer cited just one thing that could prevent Ram advancing.

“As long as the scene doesn’t get too big for him, which I don’t see why it would be because he’s been in a lot of big matches before, then I think Rajeev has got a great chance of doing well,” Dancer said.

The “scene” of Wimbledon is the biggest in the world of tennis – or at least close to it. And for Dancer, just the fact that former Illini players have made it to that stage is something to be proud of.

“It’s great … Wimbledon is still Wimbledon,” Dancer said.