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MEN’S TENNIS: “Ill” showing

Kate Gales | Friday, March 18, 2005

Although it was St. Patrick’s Day, the Fighting Irish were no match for the Fighting Illini Thursday.An afternoon of near misses saw the No. 18 Irish fall to the nation’s No. 3 squad, featuring two top-20 singles players and a strong top-to-bottom doubles lineup.”They’re a good team, and they played well,” coach Bobby Bayliss said. “I was just disappointed in our slow start.”Since the beginning of the season, Bayliss has called the bottom of the lineup a strength. The team proved his thought correct Thursday, as No. 5 Irackli Ackhvlediani posted a 4-6, 7-5, 6-3 victory for the first Irish point of the match.Patrick Buchanan was last on the courts at No. 6 with another close third-set match, but ultimately fell 6-4 in the final set to leave a final score of 6-1 in favor of the Illini.”I thought once we got into the matches we were fine,” Bayliss said of the team’s performance. “We had little windows of opportunity, and we really had to close the door on them, which we really didn’t do.”In doubles, Stephen Bass and Barry King were first off the courts, losing 8-5 to Brandon Davis and Chris Martin. Illinois clinched the point at No. 1, with G.D. Jones and Ryler Deheart defeating Ryan Keckley and Brent D’Amico 8-2. The Illini completed the sweep with another 8-5 victory, this time putting Kevin Anderson and Pramod Damir over Sheeva Parbhu and Eric Langenkamp.”If we had gotten one break early on in doubles, gotten up a service break, given the crowd a chance to get into it … it might have been different,” Bayliss said of the outcome of the match. “But we didn’t do it. We didn’t manufacture it.”Singles saw the Irish fall in their first three matches to clinch the match for Illinois. In the top spot, Bass was the first to finish, as the sophomore fell 6-1, 6-4 to Anderson. Anderson is ranked No. 18 in the country in singles play.Parbhu finished next, losing 6-2, 7-5 in a fierce battle for a third set to Monte Tucker of the Illini at No. 4.Jones clinched the match for the Illini with a 7-6 (7-0), 6-3 win over Barry King at No. 3.However, the final three sets were all hotly contested. Ackvlediani posted a point for the Irish over Damir in the fifth spot.D’Amico came close to an upset of Deheart, ranked No. 4 nationally, in the second spot in the singles lineup. Winning the second set 7-5 after losing the first 6-2, he fell 7-5 in a fiercely competitive third frame.”Brent played one of the best matches he’s played all year,” Bayliss said. “I can’t ask him to play any better.”Buchanan finished the match with a difficult loss at No. 6.”You work for opportunities like this,” Bayliss said. “It’s disappointing not to do better in the matches we had chances to win.”However, he is optimistic about the team heading into the rest of the season.”One day at a time – you work hard and you try to get better,” Bayliss said. “There’s no simple, easy way to do anything. We didn’t really do anything badly, we just didn’t win.”Next time on the courts, No. 48 University of Michigan will visit the Eck Tennis Pavilion on Saturday, March 26.