Feb. 8, 2009

Courtesy of Illinois

URBANA, Ill. – The No. 13 Illinois men’s tennis team battled long and hard against the No. 8 Tennessee Volunteers, but fell short, 4-3, tonight at the Atkins Tennis Center. The Illini, who fell behind early after dropping the doubles point, were not able to pull off the come-from-behind victory in singles despite tough performances across the lineup. Illinois drops to 4-2 on the season, while Tennessee improved to 5-0.

“I’m proud of our guys for a great effort tonight,” head coach Brad Dancer said. “Tennessee is a great team and they stayed strong throughout in a tough atmosphere at the Atkins Tennis Center. I have to give Tennessee a lot of credit for coming into a tough place to play and playing well. At the same time, I’m proud of our guys for the way they competed tonight. They all played hard across the board and that’s what we need.”

In doubles, the Illini started off sluggish, and the Volunteers capitalized taking the doubles point with wins at Nos. 1 and 3.

The Orange and Blue bounced back quickly in singles. Playing at No. 1 singles, No. 41-ranked Dennis Nevolo battled with No. 50-ranked John-Patrick Smith of Tennessee. Nevolo got off to a strong start taking the first set, 6-2. The Gurnee, Ill., native continued his solid play in the second set as the two traded set points back and forth. In the end, the Illini prevailed taking the match 6-2, 6-4. Finishing at almost the exact moment, junior Marek Czerwinski added to the Illini score, as he was no match for Tennessee’s Christian Hansen at No. 5 singles. Czerwinski took the first set 6-3 and then finished off the Volunteer in the second 7-5, giving the Illini a 2-1 advantage.

The Volunteers struck back as No. 103 Boris Conkic (TENN) edged out Illinois freshman Ruan Roelofse in three sets at No. 2 singles.

At No. 3 singles, senior Marc Spicijaric, playing with the heart of a champion, came back from dropping his first set, 7-5, to Tennessee’s Davey Sandgren to take the second set, 6-4. The veteran Illini maintained his composure down the stretch in the third set, taking the match 5-7, 6-4, 7-5. With the win, Spicijaric improved to 4-1 in dual matches this season.

In another hard fought match at No. 6 singles, senior Brian Livingston regrouped after dropping his first set, 6-4, to Tennessee’s Matt Brewer, to take the second set, 6-4. In the third set, Livingston gave it all he had but ran out of steam at the end as the Illini fell short in the final set, 7-5.

With the score even at 3-3 the crowd focused on No. 4 singles. Junior Meedo El Tabakh came out firing on all cylinders in the first set as he downed the Volunteers’ Matteo Fago, 6-4. However, Fago stormed back to take the second set, 6-2, and kept the momentum on his side as he won the third set, 6-1, as the Volunteers slipped by the Illini, 4-3.

The Illini have a short turnaround as they host No. 7 Florida on Tuesday, Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. at the Atkins Tennis Center.

#8 Tennessee 4, #13 Illinois 3
Feb. 7, 2009
Atkins Tennis Center

1) John-Patrick Smith / Davey Sandgren (TENN) def. Dennis Nevolo / Ruan Roelofse (ILL) 8-4
2)#21 Matteo Fago / Boris Conkic (TENN) def. Brian Livingston / Marc Spicijaric (ILL) 7-6 (4)
3) Christian Hansen / Matt Brewer (TENN) def. Waylon Chin / Marek Czerwinski (ILL) 8-6

Order of Finish 1, 3, 2

1) #41 Dennis Nevolo  (ILL) def. #50 John-Patrick Smith (TENN) 6-2, 6-4
2) #103 Boris Conkic (TENN) def. Ruan Roelofse (ILL) 6-2, 4-6, 6-1
3) #101 Marc Spicijaric (ILL) def. Davey Sandgren (TENN) 5-7, 6-4, 7-5
4) Matteo Fago (TENN) def. Meedo El Tabakh (ILL) 4-6, 6-2, 6-1
5) Marek Czerwinski (ILL) def. Christian Hansen (TENN) 6-2, 7-5
6) Matt Brewer (TENN) def. Brian Livingston (ILL) 6-4, 4-6, 7-5

Order of Finish – 1,5,2,3,6,4