The SIU men’s tennis team lost to Wichita State University 6-1 to kick off the conference season.
The Shockers came into the match, held Saturday at the University Courts outside SIU Arena, as winners of four out of their last five matches, and they continued to play successfully against the Salukis.
The match started with double play, where partners juniors Badr Cherradi and Jordan Snyder won at No. 3 doubles. After No. 2 doubles partners freshman Szymon Opieczonek and junior Orhan Spahic lost 8-4, it came down to the No. 1 doubles team to decide which team would win the doubles point.
Partners junior Brandon Florez and senior Stanislas Rodier played a heated match against one of the top doubles partners in the conference. David Cavalcanti and Matheus Pereira of Wichita State came into Saturday’s match with an overall record of 11-3 at No. 1 doubles and jumped out to a fast start against Florez and Rodier.
It was apparent early in the match that both teams were going to make sure every point was called correctly, as there were several arguments over disputed in-or-out calls on balls.
With Florez and Rodier down 5-7 and the match nearly finished, Florez called a serve out that upset Wichita State coach Brad Louderback. In a dispute that lasted more than five minutes, Louderback asked the referee to reserve the call, but that was not the result. Florez and Rodier eventually lost the point, but Florez said the layoff actually helped the duo and powered them to tie up the match 7-7 and force a tiebreak set.
“It was a little thing; I was honest about it, but it turned into a big deal,” Florez said. “If anything, it probably took them out of their game I think. They were playing really well, and then for the next two games it was kind of shaky. We made them play maybe three extra balls, and then we would win the point.”
The Salukis lost the match and the doubles point went to the Shockers, but coach Dann Nelson said he felt his team had the momentum going into doubles play.
“I think (momentum) would have carried over even more if we would have been able to win the doubles point,” he said. “We were fighting and working hard; we were within two points of getting the doubles point. We know that we can play with a team like this, and we showed that we can be in the matches today.”
Even with momentum on their side, the Salukis only managed to win one game against the Shockers. At No. 2 singles, Rodier was the only Saluki to win, as he defeated his opponent 6-3, 6-4. Rodier said it was the ability to execute his game plan that allowed him to be successful.
“I was feeling good, confident, and I had a game plan and stuck with it,” Rodier said. “Trying to keep the ball deep and using my forehand, which is a powerful weapon for me, as much as I can, but at the right times.
N0. 1 singles Cherradi lost 6-4, 7-6 (7-4) during a tiebreak set. No. 3 singles Florez lost 7-6 (7-1), 6-3, and N0. 4 singles Spahic lost 6-3, 7-5. The bottom two seeds were not able to gain points either, as sophomore Rafael Cuadrillero and freshman Martijn Admiraal lost 6-3, 6-2 and 6-2, 6-0, respectively.
The Salukis return to action Wednesday for an out-of-conference match against Eastern Illinois University. Nelson said he plans to work his team hard as it prepares to face the Panthers.
“We’re going to continue to work on things that matter, like net game, serves, and returns and things like that,” Nelson said. “We have a good month left of the season now. We’re not going to coast; we’re going to keep working hard and do the best we can in the conference season.”