The SIU men’s tennis team kicked off the 2014 season with losses against Oklahoma State University Friday and against South Dakota State University Saturday.
The Salukis traveled to Stillwater, Okla. for their first matches of the season from the newly built Greenwood Tennis Center, a 50,000 square foot indoor facility. The team played its first match Friday losing 4-0 to the Cowboys and suffered a 4-3 defeat Saturday to the Jackrabbits.
SIU started off against a tough OSU team, the Cowboys swept the Salukis in all sets during singles play and took both matches during doubles. Coach Dann Nelson chalked the loss up to the Salukis’ fitness and match preparation after the break.
“Oklahoma State is very good. They’ll be ranked at some point during the year,” Nelson said. “We’re coming off a six-week layoff, we practiced a week and then we played two matches. So we’re still getting into the swing of things.”
New to the 2014 season are several rule changes from the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, the governing body of college tennis. The rule changes, which affect the length of doubles matches, will be implemented on a trial basis until Feb. 17.
The doubles portion of tennis matches will be played in a three-match format. Teams receive one point per match win and once a team has won two matches any remaining matches will not be completed. The rule changes are meant to speed up the game and make it more enticing to the viewers.
The Salukis got to experience the new rule change first hand in an exciting match between SIU sophomore Jonny Rigby and freshman Michal Kianicka against OSU’s Sebastian Sachs and Jakob Sude. The match was cut short because of the Cowboys winning the other two doubles matches. Rigby and Kianicka were winning 5-4 when their match was ended.
“We knew about the rule changes going into it. It does get a little frustrating down the road if you’ve played a bunch of matches and you never get to finish,” Nelson said. “It would have been nice to finish that one because they were up five to four and they could have won that match.”
Nelson says he is happy after Friday’s loss because it gave his team a chance to get acclimated to the new rules and get back into the weekly grind that comes with playing Division I tennis.
On Saturday SIU played SDSU and lost 4-3. The two teams split the singles points 3-3 but lost due to a strong showing during doubles play from the Jackrabbits.
Rigby along with juniors Jorge Cavero and Szymon Opieczonek won their matches during singles play. Freshman Filip Aleksic and senior Rafael Cuadrillero won the lone doubles match for the Salukis.
The Salukis ran into a bit of bad luck when Kianicka was forced to retire because of a pulled groin and surrendered a crucial point to the Jackrabbits.
“He probably could have played, but he would have injured himself more,” Nelson said. “It was a precautionary thing to pull him out.”
There is no word on the severity of Kianicka’s injury, but he was limited in practice Monday.
The Salukis played stronger Saturday against SDSU.
“It was probably the closest match I’ve ever been a part of,” Nelson said. “We played three tie breakers in doubles, Filip Aleksic lost two tie breakers in his singles match, so our match was decided by tie breakers. That’s super close.”
Rigby continued his solid play from the fall season into this past weekend.
“In singles Jonny won 6-2, 6-2 over South Dakota’s top guy, and that’s the second time Jonny has beaten him, so it was a solid outing for him,” Nelson said. “I bet he would have liked to win the doubles match against South Dakota and finish that match against Oklahoma State, but that’s how things go.”
Nelson said the team will continue to work to get better physically and improve their fitness before the next set of matches.
“We just came up a little short this weekend especially against South Dakota State,” Nelson said. “You’ve got to give South Dakota credit, they came to play.”
The Salukis will try to get their first win Jan. 31 at Northern Illinois University.
Tony McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com, @tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 282.