©Colette Lewis 2008--
The Ohio State and Illinois match was expected to be a battle, and it didn't disappoint, with the match coming down to a third set tiebreaker at No. 3 singles. Sophomore Justin Kronauge of Ohio State was cramping, and also had to call every close ball in, as he had been overruled for the fourth time on the first point of the second set tiebreaker, giving Marc Spicijaric of Illinois the set.
After Illinois took the doubles point in a tiebreaker at the No. 3 position, Ohio State came out strong in the singles, winning four first sets. Only Kronauge didn't finish off his Illini opponent in two sets, as Bryan Koniecko at No. 1, Steven Moneke at No. 2 and Balazs Novak at No. 5 gave them a 3-2 lead. Illinois had picked up a straight set win at No. 4 from Billy Heiser, and Waylon Chin was up two breaks on Drew Eberly at No. 6 when Spicijaric and Kronauge began their third set. Chin held on for a 7-5, 2-6, 6-2 win, tying it at 3-3 and giving Kronauge and Spicijaric center stage.
The crowd gathered around the backcourt, sitting behind, above and in every available vantage point to see the drama unfold. Neither player was broken in the third set, and Spicijaric, the Illini hero in their upset of Ohio State in last year's NCAA quarterfinals, had the disadvantage of serving from behind. It nearly cost him serving at 4-5, as Kronauge had two match points, but caught the net both times, and Spicijaric held on for 5-5.
As they began the tiebreaker, Kronauge was cramping, and serving the first point couldn't bend his legs on the serve. He had called a trainer and received treatment at 4-3 in the third set, and he said after the match that he thought maybe it helped him to be cramping, as it released him from strategic considerations.
"I knew every forehand I got I would have to go for," said Kronauge, who did just that, using sharp angles and blasts to the corners to take 5-3 lead in the tiebreaker. As his teammates shouted encouragement from the sidelines, Kronauge got two errors from Spicijaric, and although he celebrated, it wasn't with much energy.
"It was such a relief," he said, describing his feeling. "I wish I wasn't cramping, so I could enjoy it.'
Asked about the overrules, Kronauge said the first three were on the far sideline and he wasn't sure how the umpire could call them. By college rules, the third overrule cost him a point. The fourth, on the near sideline was a netcord that he thought landed wide of the near sideline; the umpire disagreed and Spicijaric was awarded the game, the penalty for a fourth overrule. The fifth overrule is the match, so Kronauge knew he had to leave no room for interpretation throughout the final set, but that pressure never seemed to faze him. Again he said the cramps may have been a blessing in disguise, as he didn't have the energy to devote to arguing line calls.
Ty Tucker's team has now beaten Illinois six of seven times, but admitted it was the same match as it always is. "Obviously it's a big time rivalry," said Tucker, who led a O H I O cheer after the Kronauge victory. "I don't know how to say it, but we're the toughest team in the Big Ten. I'm not trying to be a jerk, I'm not trying to be arrogant, but my guys proved again that they're the toughest team in the Big Ten and I'm happy about that."
Next up for Ohio State is Texas, who defeated Florida 4-0 in a match that paled in comparison with the electricity generated by the Big Ten showdown occuring at the same time. Texas won the doubles point easily and took wins at No. 3, No. 6 and No. 4, with Luis Diaz Barriga defeating Jeff Dadamo 6-2, 3-6, 6-3.
For complete scores, visit the University of Tulsa website.
Friday, May 16, 2008