Daily Egyptian

Men’s tennis sweeps weekend at home

Freshman tennis player Jeremy Dixon competes in his first career match against Chicago State University Saturday at the Garden Grove Event Center in Carbondale. Dixon lost his first career match to Rashley Yeremia Saturday 6-1, 3-6, 119. SIU will face off against Eastern Illinois State University Saturday in Carbondale.ROBERT OLSON • FOR THE DAILY EGYPTIAN

Freshman tennis player Jeremy Dixon competes in his first career match against Chicago State University Saturday at the Garden Grove Event Center in Carbondale. Dixon lost his first career match to Rashley Yeremia Saturday 6-1, 3-6, 119. SIU will face off against Eastern Illinois State University Saturday in Carbondale.ROBERT OLSON • FOR THE DAILY EGYPTIAN

By Tony McDaniel

The men’s tennis team began the weekend with slight momentum, but will have plenty to build off of before their next match.

The Salukis started their first home stand of the year Friday against Austin Peay State University, and continued Saturday against Chicago State University, taking both matches by wide margin.

SIU played its home opener Friday against the Governors at Garden Grove Event Center, the team’s indoor facility. The Salukis started off the match against the Ohio Valley Conference favorites by winning two out of three games during doubles play to take a 1-0 lead.

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The junior duo of Szymon Opieczonek and Jorge Cavero won their fourth straight match by a score of 6-3. Austin Peay answered back with a 6-4 win on court two to force a deciding match on court one for the doubles point. Freshman Michal Kianicka and sophomore Jonny Rigby’s match against Jasmin Ademovic and Aleksas Tvarijonas went into a tiebreaker that the Salukis won 8-6 to give the team a 1-0 lead going into singles play.

Coach Dann Nelson said Rigby and Kianicka’s doubles victory was crucial in the rest of the match for the Salukis’ confidence.

“It was huge. They came from 5-2 down in a set to six, saved two match points and came back and won the match, which won us the doubles point,” Nelson said. “It was a turning point in the first 30 minutes of the match.”

In singles play, Rigby defeated Ademovic 6-3, 6-2, to build SIU’s lead to 2-0.

At the start of Rigby’s first match agianst Ademovic, the two players had a disagreement over the score. With no umpire on site to settle the dispute, the two players along with the coaches, had to settle the disagreement.

“I won the first set 6-3 and he was saying it was 5-2. I don’t know if he was just either really stupid or if he was trying to play mind games,” Rigby said. “When he’s got it wrong, it’s hard for him to convince everyone he’s right. I knew I’d get it my way.”

Rigby was right, and won the set 6-3.

The remaining matches continued without issue. On court two, Kianicka defeated Dimitar Ristovski 6-4, 6-4. Opieczonek won his singles match against Iago Seffrin to clinch the win for SIU 4-1 with two matches left to play.

Senior Rafael Cuadrillero won his match over James Mitchell in a tiebreaker. In the final match of the day, freshman Filip Aleksic won his third straight singles match easily over APSU’s Manuel Montenegro 6-4, 6-2, to make the final score of the match 6-1 in favor of the Salukis.

Coach Nelson said his team’s strong play against Austin Peay was in part a result of the win a week earlier against Saint Louis University.

“We had to get better from the Detroit loss to the SLU win, and then use that to spring board into this weekend,” he said. “It all compounds upon itself, we’re just looking to keep the momentum going.”

After handing Austin Peay its first loss of the season Friday, the Salukis turned their attention to the winless Chicago State Cougars Saturday.

The match official decided to start the men’s match with singles play and only go to doubles action if the score was tied 3-3 at the end of all six singles matches. The decision was made after the women’s match ran two extra hours pushing back the men’s start time from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Doubles play would not be needed, as the Salukis were able to win easily 5-1.

Rigby won his match singles in three sets over Sergiu Muresan to give him his fourth straight victory. Cavero shut out Uros Pajic 6-0, 6-0, and Kianicka defeated Mario Noboa 6-3, 6-0, to give the Salukis a 3-0 lead over the Cougars.

Opieczonek, playing the fourth spot, won his singles match for the second straight day to clinch the win with two matches left to play.

Aleksic shut out his opponent Luis Ulloa to extend his winning streak to four straight matches. The freshman said his game has improved quite a bit in his first year at SIU.

“I’m getting used to this college thing,” he said. “I’m working with some patterns which earlier I didn’t use as much like my forehand… After each win I get more self confidence.”

The Salukis’ only loss on the day came in freshman Jeremy Dixon’s first match as a Saluki. Dixon played well despite never playing any tennis at the college level before Saturday.

Dixon struggled in his first set against Rashley Yeremia losing 6-1, but settled down some in the second set to win it 6-3 and force a third set. Dixon fought back and forth with Yeremia during the third set and pushed it to a tiebreaker, but eventually lost 11-9, giving Chicago State their only point for the day.

Dixon said his first match as a Saluki has him craving more.

“I just want to practice more now,” he said. “It just makes me want to work harder and do what I have to do to get better. I need to focus less on forced errors and just play loose.”

After dropping their first four matches of the season, the Salukis find themselves on their first winning streak after easily taking the last three matches from their opponents. Nelson said his team has begun to settle into a winning mindset.

“We’re getting better every week, and it’s because they’re willing to talk about things we’re doing wrong and they’re willing to work on it in practice,” he said. “Jonny is playing well, Filip is on a streak and Szymon is playing good. Now they’re expecting to win, whereas when we started the season, they were just trying not to lose, and that’s huge for us.”

The Salukis (3-4) will try for the fourth straight win Saturday at home against Eastern Illinois University (2-2) in the third of five consecutive home matches for SIU.

Tony McDaniel can be reached at [email protected], @tonymcdanielDE or at 536-3311 ext. 282

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