#12 Illini Complete 4-3 Comeback Over Memphis
May 10, 2014
URBANA, Ill. - The Fighting Illini men's tennis team found themselves down 3-0 against Memphis on Saturday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, as the Tigers were serving match point. What originally looked like a bleak and sudden end of the 2014 season, magically turned into one of the best comebacks in the history of the program. In front of over 500 fans at the Khan Outdoor Tennis Complex, Illinois fought back and defeated Memphis 4-3 to advance to the NCAA Championships.
It marked the seventh time in Coach Dancer's nine years at the helm that Illinois has reached the Round of 16. The squad booked its ticket to Athens, Ga. via singles victories from Tim Kopinski, Blake Bazarnik, Ross Guignon and Jared Hiltzik, in said order.
"You had a situation where we lost the first set on five of the six courts and even there I thought we would be ok if we kept our composure," said Illinois head coach Brad Dancer. "We just kept digging a hole again and again. Then I did feel like if Hiltzik could save those match points and get a break there that would be a huge momentum shift. Man oh man, was it, changed everything right there."
Memphis grabbed the early lead after a very tense and tight doubles round. With Memphis' Chadwell/Grimal securing a quick 8-1 win over Bazarnik/Childers on court three the attention of the crowd turned to Kopinski/Guignon on court one and Hiltzik/Gosea on court two.
Gosea/Hiltzik were up 5-3 over Glennon/De Zutter but after Memphis held serve, the Tigers broke the Illini and held serve once more to claim their first lead. Illinois forced a tiebreak which went back and forth until a tie at five, which was when the Tigers broke away for the 7-5 victory.
That unfortunately meant the conclusion of court one went unfinished. Down 4-1 at one point, Kopinski/Guignon rallied to a 4-6 deficit where they got the coveted break they needed before holding serve to tie at six-all. After the Tigers held serve to go up 7-6, the Illini were one point away from forcing a tiebreak when the match was stopped.
Memphis then put the Illini against the ropes taking five of the six first sets and quickly gaining straight set victories on courts five and two to take a 3-0 lead.
Unrattled from the squad's current predicament, Tim Kopinski stayed the course and got the Illini on the board. The junior, who took the first set 6-3 but fell 6-2 in the second, cruised to a 6-0 third set over Johnny Grimal.
All eyes then turned to Hiltzik on court one as Memphis players gathered near, for Connor Glennon was up 5-3 and serving to clinch the match. Yet Hiltzik fought off two match points and broke Glennon which led to a huge momentum shift. Hiltzik then rode that wave of momentum all the way into a 7-6(4) tiebreak victory, forcing a third set.
That momentum and fighting spirit then spread across courts four and six. After losing the first set 6-2, Blake Bazarnik rallied with a swift 6-0 second set. In the third, Bazarnik was tied with David O'Leary at five games apiece before surging ahead 7-5 for the victory and the Illini's second point.
Next, it was Ross Guignon's turn vs. David O'Hare. Both players won a set 6-4 before finding themselves deadlocked at four games each in the third set. Holding serve to go up 5-4, Guignon broke O'Hare to take it 6-4 and tie the overall match up at three.
Meanwhile, back on court one, Hiltzik was dialed in and defeated Glennon 6-1 in the third set to complete the comeback and punch the Illini's ticket to Athens. Overwhelmed with emotion, Hiltzik fell to the ground and simply raised his hands in the air in triumph as the Illini surrounded him.
"We've been on the bad side of some breaks this year," added Dancer. "We were lucky to get through today, but it feels good to be lucky."
Illinois also hit a special milestone in today's big win as the Orange and Blue went undefeated at home (13-0) for the first time since 2004. When counting the final two home matches last season, the Illini have won 15 straight at Atkins, which ranks as the fifth highest of all-time.
Up next is the NCAA Championships. The Round of 16 for the men is slated to begin on Friday, May 16, at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex at the University of Georgia.
No. 1 -- #5 Kopinski / Guignon (ILL) vs. #13 O'Hare / Salisbury (MEM), 6-7, unfinished
No. 2 -- Glennon / De Zutter (MEM) def. Hiltzik / Gosea (ILL), 8-7(5)
No. 3 -- Chadwell / Grimal (MEM) def. Bazarnik / Childers (ILL), 8-1
No. 1 -- #8 Jared Hiltzik (ILL) def. #65 Connor Glennon (MEM), 4-6, 7-6(4), 6-1
No. 2 -- Joe Salisbury (MEM) def. #18 Farris Gosea (ILL), 6-4, 6-2
No. 3 -- #63 Tim Kopinski (ILL) def. Johnny Grimal (MEM), 6-3, 2-6, 6-0
No. 4 -- Blake Bazarnik (ILL) def. David O'Leary (MEM), 2-6, 6-0, 7-5
No. 5 -- Ian Chadwell (MEM) def. Alex Jesse (ILL), 6-2, 6-2
No. 6 -- Ross Guignon (ILL) def. David O'Hare (MEM), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4