May 9, 2009

Courtesy of Illinois

URBANA, Ill. - The No. 13 Illinois men's tennis team advanced to the Sweet 16 for the eighth straight season and the 10th time in the last 11 years with a come-from-behind 4-1 win over No. 21 Louisville Saturday afternoon at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Freshman Ruan Roelofse had the clinching point at No. 6 singles for the Fighting Illini.

"I'm really proud of our guys," Illinois head coach Brad Dancer said. "Louisville is a great team and give credit to them. The doubles were certainly not what we wanted. Our Achilles heel all year has been getting up and letting people back into it and I think we did that in doubles today. However, I told the guys in the locker room that I had no doubt in them whatsoever. I think they did a great job in not getting caught up in being down or how the other team is doing, but instead just staying focused on their court, especially Marc (Spicijaric). He's been our glue all season and the little things like him battling back and getting a break in the second set made a big difference in this match."

Spicijaric and partner Marek Czerwinski got the Illini on board early on in doubles taking an 8-3 win over the Cardinals' Sumit-Prakash Gupta and Austen Childs at No. 2 doubles. However, an Illinois slipup at No. 1 doubles gave Louisville a doubles win, focusing all attention to the play at No. 3 doubles. Illinois' Meedo El Tabakh and Brian Livingston fought hard, but fell short 8-6 to the Cardinals Alejandro Calligari and Robert Hall on court three to give Louisville the doubles point.

Louisville headed into singles with a 1-0 lead, however that would be their only point on the afternoon as the Illini quickly rebounded with four straight victories in singles.

Junior Marek Czerwinski started the Illini off on the right foot, swiftly knocking off Louisville's Tim Barnoud at No. 4 singles, 6-2, 6-2. No. 50th-ranked Illinois sophomore Roy Kalmanovich followed suit, polishing off Louisvilles No. 96 Viktor Maksimcuk, 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles.

Freshman Dennis Nevolo, ranked No. 39 in the country, put the Illini up 3-1 with a 6-4, 7-6 (2) victory at No. 3 singles, leaving the Orange and Blue one win away from another Sweet 16. In the end, it was freshman Ruan Roelofse who sealed the Illini victory at No. 6 singles, with a straight sets 6-4, 6-4 win over Louisville's Robert Hall, to send the Illini on to the next round.

In the other two matches on court, sophomore Abe Souza was up a set and tied 5-5 when his match was abandoned after Roelofse clinched the Illini victory.

Meanwhile, Illinois senior Marc Spicijaric, the veteran leader for the Illinois tennis team all season, ranked 73rd in the nation, dropped the first set at No. 1 to 28th-ranked Austen Childs, 7-6 (7), but broke back from being down 2-4, to even the score 4-4 in the second set when Roelofse ended things.

Illinois improves to 23-8 overall and is now 19-2 in NCAA Tournament action when playing at home.

The Fighting Illini now head to the NCAA Championships at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center in College Station, Tex., May 14-25 and will face No. 4 Georgia in the Round of 16 on Thursday, May 14 at 9 am CT. The last time the two teams faced each other was at the 2007 National Championship match, where the Illini capped an amazing run with a runner-up finish to the Bulldogs.

#13 University of Illinois 4, #21 University of Louisville 1
5/9/2009 at Urbana, Ill. (Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex)

Singles competition
1. #73 Marc Spicijaric (ILL) vs. #28 Austen Childs (LOU) 6-7 (7-9), 4-4, unfinished
2. #50 Roy Kalmanovich (ILL) def. #96 Viktor Maksimcuk (LOU) 6-3, 6-3
3. #39 Dennis Nevolo (ILL) def. Simon Childs (LOU) 6-4, 7-6 (7-2)
4. Marek Czerwinski (ILL) def. Tim Barnoud (LOU) 6-2, 6-2
5. Abe Souza (ILL) vs. Andrew Carter (LOU) 7-6 (7-3), 5-5, unfinished
6. Ruan Roelofse (ILL) def. Robert Hall (LOU) 6-4, 6-4

Doubles competition
1. Simon Childs/Viktor Maksimcuk (LOU) def. #21 Dennis Nevolo/Ruan Roelofse (ILL) 8-6
2. #41 Marc Spicijaric/Marek Czerwinski (ILL) def. Sumit-Prakash Gupta/Austen Childs (LOU) 8-3
3. Alejandro Calligari/Robert Hall (LOU) def. Meedo El Tabakh/Brian Livingston (ILL) 8-6

Match Notes
University of Louisville 21-8; National ranking #21
University of Illinois 23-8; National ranking #13
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (4,2,3,6)