Daily Egyptian

SIU men’s tennis sends Rigby off in style

(Daily Egyptian file photo of Jonny Rigby)

(Daily Egyptian file photo of Jonny Rigby)

By Austin Miller, @AMiller_DE

SIU men’s tennis not only sent Illinois State home with a loss, but they sent one of the greatest players in program history out in style.

The team (12-3, 1-0 Missouri Valley Conference) defeated Illinois State (8-11, 0-1 MVC) 4-3.

Senior Jonny Rigby won his singles match against Redbird senior Jakub Eisner (6-4, 6-0). He won his 66th doubles match, the most in program history, with junior Piotr Baranski against the Redbird team of Eisner and sophomore Andres Boers.

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The team won all three doubles matches.

Rigby, whose 142 combined wins is No. 2 all-time at SIU, closed out his home SIU career in front of his parents.

Karen Rigby, Jonny’s mom, said she and her husband, David, have made the 15-hour trip to Carbondale from their home in Lancashire, England twice.

“[Tennis] has given him chances he would never have had, he would never have been here if he had not been a tennis player,” Karen said.

Coach Dann Nelson said he is sad to see Rigby go, especially because he had him play in the No. 1 position against the opposing school’s top player for most of his four years as a Saluki.

Nelson said Rigby has continued to improve at every step since his freshman year, but that hasn’t been the only thing that sticks with him.

“The greatest thing about Jonny is that he’s a great human being, he’s a great person,” he said. “I love having that kid around, so it’s going to be sad to see him go and graduate.”

Jonny, a three-time singles and two-time doubles MVC All-Conference team member, said it always tough to play against Illinois State, with the Birds winning their last meeting 4-3 on April 4 in Bloomington.

He said the team knew the score would probably end 4-3.

“On a personal level, it was really pleasing to win my matches and to see the support from everyone who came out,” he said.

Karen, who played club-level tennis for most of her life, said there is no tennis comparison between herself and her son anymore.

“I don’t think I’ve beat him since he was about eight,” she said.

With Rigby playing his final match at University Courts, the tennis program may have as well.

Both the men’s and women’s teams could be cut next season as a result of Republican Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget

Nelson, who is in his 11th season as head coach, said he doesn’t want Saturday to be their last match.

“Why would we get rid of this? This is something that we’re all bleeding for, we all work so hard for this program,” he said. “This program’s important and we do things the right way. That’s what you want. We do well in the classroom and we do well on the court. Isn’t that what you want for a college program?”

Rigby, who graduated in December with a degree in management, said he hopes the university can find a way to keep the program going.

“For me, [the program] changed my life, gave me a great opportunity and I think it would be a shame if the other guys didn’t get to see out their four years here,” he said.

The Salukis play next at Wichita State on April 17 and Drake on April 22 before starting the MVC Team Championships on April 29.

Austin Miller can be reached at [email protected] or at 536-3333.

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