©Colette Lewis 2009--
Ann Arbor, MI--
There are a few things you probably shouldn't bet against: Nadal on clay, spring rain in Michigan and Ohio State and Illinois playing for the Big Ten men's tennis title. For the sixth straight year, the Fighting Illini and the Buckeyes will meet to decide the conference championship. Illinois won in 2004 and 2005, but Ohio State has won the past three years.
Second-seeded Illinois cruised into the final by crushing No. 6 seed Indiana 5-0 in the afternoon's second match, which was moved indoors when a thunderstorm line approached right around the 2 p.m. start time.
The only resistance the Hoosiers provided was in doubles, when their No. 3 team briefly tied it at 1-1, after Illinois's top team had taken the first match, but the No. 2 Illinois team secured the point, and things got worse for Indiana after that.
In the singles, Illinois won the first set in five of the six singles matches, and most of the those were by morale-sapping scores of 6-1 or 6-2. Only sophomore Lachlan Ferguson at No. 1 gave the Hoosiers any hope, taking the first set from Marc Spicijaric, but the Orange Wave engulfed him, too, and by the time Marek Czerwinski and Dennis Nevolo had finished off their opponents at Nos. 3 & 4 at the exact same moment, Ferguson had lost the second set to Spicijaric. The other two wins for the Illini came from Abe Souza at No. 5 and Brian Livingston at No. 6. For complete scores, see the Illinois website.
The Michigan - Ohio State match this morning was more interesting; the increasingly blustery winds forced all the players to make major adjustments. It didn't make for high quality tennis, but there were still plenty of amazing shots struck, with the degree of difficulty much greater given the conditions.
The doubles got interesting, when at 1-1, with Michigan winning at No. 2 and Ohio State at No. 3, Ohio State's No. 1 team came close to losing its two-break lead. But despite having three or four opportunities to get back on serve at 7-6, Jason Jung and George Navas couldn't convert any of those chances and Justin Kronauge and Steven Moneke put the point in Ohio State's column by an 8-6 score.
It didn't look like the doubles point would matter much when the Buckeyes took five of six first sets against the Wolverines. Steven Moneke at No. 3 and Chase Buchanan at No. 6 made it 3-0 Buckeyes, but George Navas got Michigan on the board with a straight set win at No. 5. Around that time, Jason Jung had earned a split with Bryan Koniecko at No. 1, while Chris Madden and Andrew Mazlin had already won second sets to keep the match going. All three Michigan men got down early in the third though, and although Mazlin got back on serve, Madden couldn't, and ultimately the dual ended when the sophomore lost to Matt Allare at No. 4 6-3, 1-6, 6-2.
For complete scores, see the Ohio State site.
If Illinois and Ohio State both play like they did Saturday, it could be another exciting chapter in their deep and bitter rivalry. And though there is no advantage to either team, given that both play indoors more than outdoors, there is rain in the forecast for Sunday.
In the women's Big Ten tournament, being played in Madison, it will be Northwestern going for its 11th straight conference title vs. Michigan. For more on that, see the Northwestern website.
The SEC conference championships will be decided on Sunday, with Ole Miss facing Tennessee for the men's title, and Georgia taking on Tennessee for the women's championship. For more on the semifinals today, see secsports.com, clicking here for the men and here for the women.
The Big 12 will be Baylor vs. Texas for both the men's and women's titles. See the Big 12 website for more.
Saturday, April 25, 2009