Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Big Ten Exists Australian Open

My time covering past Big Ten players at the Australian Open ended  on day three of the main draw, my first day at the tournament.

There were three former Illini (all from the undefeated 2003 NCAA winning team) who were scheduled to play the Australian Open Qualifying, but things didn’t go exactly as hoped. Amer Delic, who had just gotten back into the swing of things after taking a year off to recuperate from surgery, started to have problems with that same knee.  He withdrew from the Qualifying. 
Ryler De Heart had some wrist problems, forcing him to miss the pre-Australian Open events.  Considering he was already Down Under and starting to feel a bit better, De Heart decided to give it a try anyway, and fell in round one, 6-0,6-2, to Nikola Mektic. Though healthy, Rajeev Ram didn’t have much luck in the Qualifying either, as he dropped his first match to Dusan Lojda.

With the Qualifying over, it was up to Kevin Anderson (above) and Rajeev Ram (still alive in doubles) to carry the Big Ten.  Anderson started play on Day One of the men’s singles draw. He later admitted that the second match was not his best play, but you wouldn’t have known it by the 3-6,6-4,7-6(4),7-6(5) score opponent Blaz Kavcic of Slovenia left with. 

I arrived yesterday in time to see Anderson’s doubles match in its entirety.   His partner for the Australian Open was Victor Hanescu and I can’t say that it was the best pairing. The first set was full of crowd pleasing winners from the former Illini, but his teammate was not quite as consistent as the more experienced team of Michael Llodra and Nenad Zimonjic took the set 6-3.  In the second, Anderson saved two match points at 4-5 before the eighth seeds took it on the next game.

Rajeev Ram’s doubles match was one I was very excited to watch as he was teaming with Scott Lipsky against the top seeded Bryan Brothers (all of whom had played for Stanford).  As much as I caffeinated myself, though, I couldn’t fool my body into not remembering I had just been on a plane for over 16 hours with little sleep in two days!  I thought if I went to the hotel and rested I could watch the evening match online, but fell asleep after the Bryans took the first set 6-3.  It’s a shame I missed the second, where Ram and Lipsky prevailed, but the No. 1 doubles team in the world were the match winners with a 6-4 final set.

I will be covering more tennis for College And Junior Tennis over the next week and I’ll also be stopping by Big Ten Tennis to talk about what’s happening back in the States and what’s to come in the conference.
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