Men’s tennis advances at championship

Illinois men’s tennis head coach Brad Dancer appeared particularly eager entering this weekend’s tournament.

“It’s been a long time since Illinois has had three players in the main draw of the ITA (Intercollegiate Tennis Association),” Dancer said.

Three Illini are competing in Tulsa, Okla., for the ITA All-American Championship. No. 7 Dennis Nevolo and No. 71 Roy Kalmanovich each posted two wins over ranked opponents in Thursday’s two rounds of the main draw.

Nevolo defeated No. 46 Malte Stropp 6-1, 6-1, and No. 40 Adrien Puget 6-1, 3-6, 7-6 (3). Kalmanovich defeated No. 86 Akash Muppidi, 6-4, 6-3, and No. 74 Yannick Maden, 2-6, 6-4, 6-3.

Unranked Stephen Hoh lost in the first round of the main draw but defeated No. 30 Enej Bonin 2-6, 6-2, 6-3, in the consolation draw.

Each of the three Illini made it to the main draw in different ways.

Earlier this week, Kalmanovich played his way in via the qualifying rounds, in which he tallied three wins, including one against No. 58 Bob van Overbeek, of Florida.

Nevolo automatically qualified for the All-American Championships based off his national ranking, and Hoh won a wild card to the main draw when he earned a title at USTA/ITA National Summer Championships on Aug. 16.

This weekend’s tournament marks the first ITA National Championship of the 2011-12 season. Quarterfinalists and consolation champions automatically qualify for the USTA/ITA National Indoor Intercollegiate Championships, which will take place Nov. 3-6 in Flushing, N.Y.

Dancer stressed the importance of the upcoming tournament and preparing his players.

“We have really been working with the guys on the court and in the weight room,” Dancer said. “Stephen had a couple of tough losses last weekend in Virginia, but we have really worked hard to improve his game. This can be considered a ‘grand slam’ for college tennis. It’s one of the most important events of the year. The winner of the ITA this weekend could get a head start to becoming the No. 1-ranked player of the fall season.”