Daily Egyptian

Saluki tennis drops two close matches

By Tony McDaniel

The SIU men’s tennis team continued the 2014 season Friday and Saturday in Rockford, losing both matches to fall to 0-4.

The Salukis lost their third and fourth matches of the season to Northern Illinois University 6-1, and University of Detroit Mercy 4-3 Friday and Saturday in Rockford. The Salukis went into Friday’s match looking for their first win after losses against Oklahoma State University and South Dakota State University two weeks ago in Stillwater, Okla. to start their season at 0-2.

Friday, the Salukis faced rivals NIU but fell 6-1. Freshman Michal Kianicka won the Salukis’ only point of the day when he beat NIU’s Dor Amir in three sets. Juniors Szymon Opieczonek and Jorge Cavero won their doubles match over Frederic Cadieux and Simon Formont.

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To go along with the two match wins, Cavero and freshman Filip Aleksic were able to force a third set during their singles matches, but were not able to get the win. Kianicka and sophomore Jonny Rigby pushed their doubles match against Dor Amir and Axel Logerlof to a match point, but lost to NIU.

Coach Dann Nelson said the match was closer than the score line suggested.

“We actually didn’t play all that bad against Northern. Northern is a really good team,” Nelson said. “We actually had a match point at one doubles, which could’ve given us the doubles point, and then there were plenty of other close matches too.”

Seventeen hours later the Salukis were back in action. This time against Detroit Mercy; a match SIU lost 4-3. Nelson says he does not believe the short turn around had much of an effect on his players.

“That happens quite a bit in tennis, you do one match on one day and another match on the next day,” Nelson said. “There are teams that play two matches in one day so it really isn’t that big a deal.”

The Salukis started strong Saturday. The duo of Rigby and Kianicka cruised to a 6-0 victory over Detroit’s Jay Joshi and Bobby Cawood. Cavero and Opieczonek followed up Rigby and Kianicka’s doubles win with one of their own over Ismail Kadyrov and Patryk Koscielski 6-1 to give SIU a 1-0 lead going into singles play.

Singles play started well with Rigby winning his match over the Titan’s Joshi, but SIU struggled to keep their momentum going with losses in their next four singles matches until Aleksic was able to beat NIU’s Chance Conley 6-0, 6-4, but Detroit took the victory 4-3.

Kianicka lost a close singles match on tiebreakers to Detroit’s Cawood. Coach Nelson said in the future he expects his young freshmen to win these kinds of matches.

“He just couldn’t make the volley in the first set which is tough because that’s his game. Things started to click a little bit more in the second set,” Nelson said. “He didn’t play his best and still had chances to win, so you have to be proud of him with that.”

The Salukis experienced some bad luck during Jorge Cavero’s match against the Titan’s Patryk Koscielski, when Cavero began having trouble with his knees.

“Jorge, after doubles, was complaining of knee pain, and he just couldn’t move,” Nelson said.

According to Coach Nelson, Cavero was forced to change his style of play to compensate for lack of mobility because of his knees. Cavero had to begin playing the ball high and deep to his opponent’s backhand to affect the other player’s ability to place his shot and force Cavero to move around.

“That worked for a little bit, but after a few games of that the other player will make adjustments to make Jorge move, and Jorge was just not able to run for balls,” Nelson said. “You’ve got to give somebody credit who’s in a little bit of pain that stayed out there for the team.”

After four matches, the Salukis’ record sits at 0-4, but Nelson said he feels like his team is on the verge of their first win.

“I really thought we should have won on Saturday,” Nelson said. “But when you have trouble closing people out that’s what’s going to happen. It’s really not a technical issue, it’s more of a mental and tactical issue.”

Nelson says his team’s mental ability to close out matches will be something his young team will learn over time.

“If you’re in a position where you’ve won a lot of three-set matches in your career, then you kind of know what to do,” Nelson said. “But if you haven’t been in that situation then maybe you second guess yourself, you doubt yourself, and we seem to doubt ourselves sometimes. That’s not a good position to be in.”

The Salukis will continue to search for their first win Friday when they go on the road to Saint Louis University to face the Billikens.

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

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