Guignon, Illini men’s tennis move to 5-0 in conference

Ross Guignon picked the perfect time to deliver his first Big Ten singles win for the Illinois men’s tennis team.

The freshman defeated Michael Sicora 4-6, 6-4, 7-5 to clinch the match for the Illini over Minnesota on Sunday at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex.

With the score 5-4 in the third set of the No. 6 singles match, Guignon served three aces to give him match point.

Sicora held strong before eventually breaking Guignon, who then went on to immediately break back.

Guignon quickly found himself in a similar position serving for match point and would not be denied again, helping No. 17 Illinois improve to 11-3 on the season.

“I definitely think he was more fatigued than me,” Guignon said of the end of the match. “The way (assistant coach Marcos Asse) put it to me, because we were both going to our towel every point, he was like, ‘You’re going to your towel for clarity, and he’s going to his towel because he can’t even breathe.’”

In doubles to begin the day, the teams split the first two matches with the matchup at the No. 1 spot to determine the point.

The No. 45-ranked pair of Dennis Nevolo and Roy Kalmanovich fell behind to No. 22 Rok Bonin and Julian Dehn of Minnesota early on by breaking Nevolo’s serve twice.

Nevolo said he then made some adjustments to his serve and paired with a clutch break. It allowed the duo to pick up a 9-7 win, giving Illinois the 1-0 advantage in the overall match.

“(Nevolo and Kalmanovich) just made better shots down the stretch,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “They missed a lot of shots, they were a little bit unfortunate and I thought down the stretch, especially the return game at 6-7, they both hit some good returns and put a lot of pressure there.”

Freshman Tim Kopinski picked up a quick win at the No. 5 singles spot by defeating Jack Hamburg 6-3, 6-4 to double the score 2-0.

Just minutes later, Nevolo picked up a 6-2, 6-1 singles win at the No. 1 position over Bonin to make the score 3-0.

“It was pretty windy, it was pretty tough to hit the ball clean, but I thought I did a pretty good job,” Nevolo said. “I just played smart and really took my chances when I had them, and that’s what it really came down to.”

Nevolo’s win puts him at 10-2 in the dual season and 23-4 overall. It was also the 107th career singles win for him, tying him with Mike Kosta in eighth on the school’s all-time wins list.

Minnesota would then respond by picking up its first point at No. 4 singles when Julian Dehn defeated Bruno Abdelnour 6-4, 6-4 and No. 80 Leandro Toledo topped No. 31 Kalmanovich 6-4, 5-7, 6-0 at the No. 2 spot to make it 3-2.

Then it was Guignon’s turn to shine as he delivered the clincher for the Illini.

“He’s such an emotional, young player,” Dancer said of Guignon. “He gets overly excited, and I think that takes away from the quality of his tennis. We talked about finding a way to temper that a little bit out there and I think he did a beautiful job the rest of the way of finding that equilibrium, letting the tennis speak for itself.”

The No. 3 singles match between the Illini’s Stephen Hoh and Phillip Arndt went unfinished with Hoh leading 5-2 in the tiebreaking third set.

Sunday’s win was the second on the weekend for the Illini, who also defeated Wisconsin 6-1 on Friday.

After dropping the doubles point, Illinois rolled in singles, starting with Kalmanovich’s 6-1, 6-2 win over Fredrik Ask at the No. 1 spot.

Nevolo and freshman Farris Gosea followed suit at the No. 2 and 6 positions before Kopinski delivered the clinching point by topping Billy Bertha 6-2, 7-6 (4).

Hoh and Abdelnour would pick up the final two points of the match with their wins at Nos. 3 and 4 singles.

Illinois moved to 5-0 in the Big Ten standings after the weekend, good enough for a tie at the top spot with No. 2 Ohio State.