By Dan Collins
The No. 7 UK men’s tennis team (23-4, 10-0 SEC) earned its eighth straight win Thursday afternoon at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. The Cats, led by senior Eric Quigley and junior Anthony Rossi, captured a resounding 6-1 victory over Illinois.
UK won two of the three doubles matches to secure the first point early in the matchup.
“In doubles they played really good, felt like everything was going their way,” said Quigley, who lost his match alongside sophomore Panav Jha, 8-1.
“Hats off to them in doubles,” Quigley said, “but in singles I felt like everything was going my way.”
The No. 3-ranked Quigley faced a familiar adversary in Illinois’ No. 5 Dennis Nevolo, who defeated Quigley when they met last. However, Quigley dominated the match this time by defeating Nevolo 6-3, 6-2.
“I was dictating points,” Quigley said.
No. 22 Rossi clinched the match for the Cats, winning the fourth point over Illinois’ Bruno Abdelnour.
“I was nervous, a little bit, in the beginning of the first set,” Rossi said. “I was a little off in the beginning.”
Rossi’s match went to a tie-breaker in the first set, which he recalled as a pivotal moment.
“I gave three points and a double fault,” Rossi said, who was serving to win the set at 5-4. “I just realized I pretty much missed a big chance to win the set, so after that I just focused a little more.”
Rossi’s extra focus proved enough as he captured the set 7-5, and the following set 6-2.
“Rossi’s one of the most solid points we’ve ever had here,” head coach Dennis Emery said. “He’s the complete package in terms of athletic ability, competitive spirit and being a good teammate.”
Emery was pleased with his teams effort, citing the difficulty of mid-week matches for student athletes, especially toward the end of the academic semester.
“It’s a good win for us, it will definitely end up being one of our top wins,” Emery said. “I was really as proud of our team as I’ve been in a long time.”
The match closed with a battle between senior Alex Musialek, No. 15, and No. 38 Roy Kalmanovich of Illinois. Musialek trailed Kalmanovich 4-5 in the second set for what looked like an upset.
“I love to watch Alex Musialek play, he’s a great player,” Emery said, “especially when he’s really committed to winning like he was today.”
Musialek would battle back to win the second set 7-5, then snatch the third set in a tie-breaker round to finish off the match.
Emery said the team is already looking forward to its next match against Vanderbilt.
“Vandy is a very good team, a team that we’re going to have to be really prepared to play,” Emery said. “We expect that this is going to be a very tough match for us.”
The men’s tennis team will host Vanderbilt in its last home match of the year at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Boone Tennis Complex.