Men’s tennis excels in tough tournament

By Tyler Dixon

 

Youth was thought to be the weakness of the men’s tennis team early this season, instead it has turned out to be a strength.

Three Saluki players came away with singles wins and three doubles teams claimed victories during the Intercollegiate Tennis Association Central Regional Championship in Tulsa, Okla. Thursday through Sunday, which featured 15 of the best teams in the region.

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Coach Dann Nelson said his team played well and he was surprised his team had a freshman and sophomore in the main draw of singles play.

“The wins we had, we played really good competition,” Nelson said. “We continue to play good doubles.”

The future of Saluki tennis is exciting with the play of freshman Michal Kianicka and sophomore Jonny Rigby this season. Kianicka and Rigby each won one singles matches during the tournament.

Kianicka had an impressive 6-1, 6-2, win over Chris Haworth from Oklahoma State University, but fell to conference foe Alen Salibasic from Drake University. Salibasic is ranked No. 7 in the country.

Rigby had some reminders of home in his loss to Mike Nott of Arkansas. Nott’s brother, Chris Nott, was influential in Rigby coming to the United States to play tennis.

Rigby said it was cool playing with Mike Nott, because when Rigby was younger, he would pay Nott to play with him.

“It was a good match for me, I probably played my best tennis,” Rigby said. “That was really fun to play in such a good match.”

Not only are Kianicka and Rigby winning singles matches, they are also a reputable doubles team. The duo grabbed two wins before losing to Austin Siegel and Dane Webb from the University of Oklahoma.

Kianicka said he and Rigby have two more years to grow as teammates and hopefully can claim a championship title.

“I’m really surprised that we are doing so well,” Kianicka said. “We are playing seniors most of the time.”

Nelson said during the summer, it is necessary to discuss the doubles teams for the upcoming season and figure out who will play well with each other.

“So far it’s worked out with those guys,” Nelson said. “They’ve gotten better with every tournament they’ve played.”

The experienced team of junior Jorge Cavero and junior Szymon Opieczonek were forced to settle their match against Arkansas with a tiebreak. They won the tiebreak 8-0 and the match 8-7.

Cavero continued his singles success from the Saluki Fall Classic on Oct. 12. He won two matches Thursday beating Arthur Romanet from Bradley University 6-4, 7-6, in his first match. He won the tiebreak 6-0 in his opening match. Cavero went on to defeat Santiago Munoz from the University of Arkansas in straight sets 6-4, 7-5. Cavero’s singles tournament ended Saturday with a loss to Nathan Roper of Oklahoma State University 6-4, 6-3.

“I feel like my confidence has grown with each match,” Cavero said. “First round of qualifying, I won 10-6 in the super tie break, I think that’s what made the difference. If I would have lost that match my confidence would have gone down completely again.”

Cavero struggled early in the season, dropping all three of his singles matches in the opening tournament at Middle Tennessee State University, but Nelson said he has been playing very well as of late.

“I think he’s starting to turn things around to where he’s more confident and just playing better,” Nelson said.

The final test of the fall season comes Nov.8-10 in Des Moines, Iowa where the Salukis will play in the Missouri Valley Conference Individual Tournament.

Nelson said the team needs to be able to work hard to stay in matches throughout the tournaments.

“We just need to get more consistent, we have to play at a high level for longer,” Nelson said.

Tyler Dixon can be reached at 

[email protected] 

or 536-3311 ext. 269.

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