Men's Tennis
Ram puts Illini touch on 2004 USTA Champaign-Urbana Challenger

Rajeev Ram became the first former Illini to win the Urbana-Champaign Challenger.
Rajeev Ram became the first former Illini to win the Urbana-Champaign Challenger.

Nov. 21, 2004

Urbana, Ill. - As a student-athlete at the University of Illinois, he was an NCAA Doubles champion.As a professional playing at the University of Illinois, he's become a Challenger champion.

Rajeev Ram became the first former Illini to win a title at the Northwestern Mutual Financial Network and the Wright Financial Group USTA Challenger, teaming with Brian Baker to defeat another former Illini, Graydon Oliver, and Justin Gimelstob, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7).Ram and Baker split $3,100 and each picks up 50 ATP Tour points.Oliver and Gimelstob get $1,800 and 35.

"It's pretty cool to be the first," Ram said of his achievement."I've been lucky enough to be a part of a lot of firsts here, but there's going to be a lot more."

Oliver had been favored to be the one in the winner's position, as he and Gimelstob were the top seeds.But poor execution cost the 2001 NCAA Doubles champ and his partner.

"Raj and Brian both served better than we did today," he said."We had a few opportunities we didn't capitalize on.It was the kind of match that if you had those points, you had to win them, because they weren't giving us any."

In the singles final, Gimelstob was able to come back from a break down in the first to win his second Champaign Challenger in straight sets over Ramon Delgado.Down 3-1, Gimelstob won four straight games, including two breaks, to take control.Up 5-3, he traded service games with Delgado, and won 6-4. In the second set, Gimelstob put it in cruise control after an early break, and again won 6-4.

"Hopefully it will give me some momentum for 2005," said Gimelstob. "I hope people can see that I've regained a lot of my ability from before my injury.It's been a lot of hard work, so it's very satisfying."

The win is Gimelstob's second in Champaign, also taking the championship in 1996.It's also his fourth Challenger title of 2004, and second in a row following his win over Amer Delic in Nashville last week.With the win, he earns $7,200 and 50 ATP Tour points.Delgado leaves with $4,240 and 35 points.

Tournament Director and University of Illinois Men's Tennis Coach Craig Tiley said the 2004 Challenger set a new standard for his program.

"Every year we seem to have a better and better event, and this year was no exception," he said. "Great support from the community; the most people ever out to watch; and the most success by Illinois players past and present.We hope to grow this not only to be the premiere event in the state, but also to be the premiere event in the United States."

A complete draw sheet is posted at


Justin Gimelstob (USA) def. Ramon Delgado (PAR) 6-4, 6-4


#3 Brian Baker/Rajeev Ram (USA) def. #1 Justin Gimelstob/Graydon Oliver (USA) 7-6 (5), 7-6 (7)