Men’s tennis finds good in tough losses

By Tyler Dixon

The Salukis had trouble finding their rhythm during the weekend in Murfreesboro,Tenn., but were able to grab a few wins against talented opponents.

SIU entered the tournament with only six players on its roster. The team is comprised of two freshmen, sophomore Jonny Rigby, two juniors and a senior leader in Rafael Cuadrillero.

Coach Dann Nelson said, despite the rough tournament for his team, there were some positives to take away from it.

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“We didn’t do as well as we hoped this weekend. We had some bright spots in doubles play where we really competed, but we need to improve in singles play,” Nelson said in a Salukis Athletics press release.

Rigby was the only SIU player to get a win during singles matches on the first day. Rigby fell in the first set to Middle Tennessee State University junior Ettore Zito 2-6, but battled back and took the next two sets 6-3, 6-3.

Nelson said Rigby is the type of player that can never be counted out in a match.

“The mental side for Jonny (Rigby) is excellent because he does fight until the last ball,” Nelson said.

Five of the six Salukis fell in straight sets to the Blue Raiders. Three SIU players fell in singles matches while they dropped two doubles matches against MTSU.

Junior Szymon Opieczonek was the key player on the second day of the tournament for the Salukis with SIU winning one singles match and two doubles matches. Opieczonek won his singles match against Lipscomb freshman Rob Mitchell 6-2, 7-5 and then was paired with junior Jorge Cavero in an 8-5 win over Lipscomb in doubles.

Nelson said Opieczonek has worked hard over the summer and looks to improve as time moves forward.

“Szymon’s (Opieczonek) really stepped up,” he said. “He’s had a great fall.”

Freshman Filip Aleksic had the task of playing against Lipscomb senior Miguel Cortez and held his own taking the first set 2-6, but later fell 6-2, 7-5.

Freshman Michal Kianicki was paired with Rigby on day two where SIU beat Lipscomb 8-2 in doubles play. Kianiki won his singles match on day three as well with a 6-1, 6-4 win over Mitchell Martel of the Univerity of Alabama Birmingham.

Nelson said even though it is still early in the season for Kianicki, he has been finding a bond with his partner.

“He’s getting his feet wet, he played really well in doubles,” Nelson said. “He and Jonny (Rigby) are starting to gel in doubles and they can be an excellent team.”

Nelson and his team have a few days to practice and rest for the next tournament, but Nelson said he is excited about where his team is after the weekend tournament.

“It’s exciting because we played good competition. Now we know where we stand and we know what we need to work on,” he said. “We’re going to take what we learned from this tournament and get back on the practice court and try to fix a few areas.”

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