Team holds its own against formidable opponents

Senior, freshman sweep doubles competition

Members of the men’s tennis team compiled a 12-14 record in its first event during the weekend, but the wins and losses do not tell the whole story.

The Salukis competed in the Middle Tennessee State University Dale Short Shootout against MTSU, University of Alabama at Birmingham and Lipscomb University. The event was held on MTSU’s campus in Mufreesboro, Tenn., and two members from Belmont University in nearby Nashville, Tenn., filled out the rest of Middle Tennessee’s squad.

Coach Dann Nelson said he was satisfied with the team’s performance in the event, especially against powerhouses MTSU and UAB. Both schools were nationally ranked in the top 75 by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association at the end of last season.

“We had a lot of positives over the weekend,” Nelson said. “I believe that we’re doing the right things and that they will translate into improvement and further success.”

Sophomore Martijn Admiraal went 2-1 in singles play, including a comeback against UAB’s Korhan Ates where he won 6-3 in the third set. Admiraal and Senior Brandon Florez broke even in doubles at 1-1.

Senior Orhan Spahic was also strong in singles with a 2-1 record. Spahic beat Belmont’s Henrik Claesson in straight sets Saturday and defeated Lipscomb’s Miguel Cortez in a battle that ended with Spahic outlasting his opponent 6-1 in the third set.

Although the Salukis did not fare well collectively against their opponents in singles play, the team put together a 5-3 record in doubles, which included a 3-0 performance from Freshman Jonny Rigby and Senior Badr Cherradi.

Rigby and Cherradi defeated a team from each school in convincing fashion on each day of competition. Rigby said he was surprised with his and Cherradi’s performance.

“It was strange because that was the first time we had ever played with each other,” he said.

It was the first SIU event for Rigby, who went 0-3 in singles play. He said he was not disappointed with his singles performance because he thought he played each match well against tough opponents.

Rigby said he thinks the team’s showing in the shootout bodes well for the Salukis in the future.

“It showed that we can compete against the top universities,” he said. “We’re not going to be beaten easily.”

Florez said he agreed the team showed a lot of potential during the weekend.

He lost both of his singles matches, which included a grueling third-set match against Yannick Born of MTSU. He said Nelson called it his best performance at SIU.

Florez said he enjoyed the overall team performance and the fight each player showed on the court.

“A lot of people stepped up in matches,” he said. “Everybody did something well at least once during the weekend.”

He said he thinks the Salukis are fighting in singles play, an aspect of the team’s game that Nelson said needs improvement.

“Moving forward, we have to get better at singles,” he said. “We have to convert break points and game points.”

Three players will travel with Nelson Saturday to Tulsa, Okla., to compete in the ITA All-American, a national singles competition. Nelson has yet to finalize the tournament’s roster.

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