The No. 45 University of Wisconsin mens tennis team recorded a big victory on Sunday, knocking off No. 16 Illinois by a score of 5-2. The win, which snapped a 14-match losing streak to the Illini, moves the Badgers to 12-7 overall and 4-1 in the Big Ten. Illinois falls to 10-6 overall and 3-1 in conference play.
Wisconsin swung the momentum its way with by taking the doubles point.
Illinois took the first doubles match, by winning at No. 1. The 22nd-ranked team of Billy Heiser and Ryan Rowe defeated senior Nolan Polley (Lexington, Ky.) and sophomore Moritz Baumann (Inzlingen, Germany) 8-3. With the loss, Polley and Baumann fall to 5-5 in dual matches, 3-2 in the Big Ten and 3-4 at the No. 1 spot.
The UW came back though with a win at No. 3. Senior Jeremy Sonkin (Wheaton, Ill.) and sophomore Marek Michalicka (Ricany, Czech Republic) defeated Connor Roth and Marc Spicijaric 8-5. Sonkin and Michalicka improve to 2-2 in dual matches, 2-2 in the Big Ten and 2-0 at the No. 3 spot.
The clinching point came with a win at No. 2 doubles. The team of sophomores Michael Dierberger (Milwaukee, Wis.) and Luke Rassow-Kantor (Westport, Conn.) knocked off the 32nd-ranked team of Ruben Gonzales and Brandon Davis 8-6. Dierberger and Rassow-Kantor improve to 2-2 on the year, 2-2 in the Big Ten and 1-1 at the No. 2 spot.
Wisconsin pushed its lead to 2-0 with a win at No. 6 singles. Dierberger made quick work of Davis with a 6-2, 6-0 victory. With the win, Dierberger is now 10-3 overall, 4-0 in the Big Ten and 5-2 at the No. 6 position.
The lead was cut to 2-1 when Spicijaric won at No. 4 singles for the Illini. Facing Sonkin, Spicijaric came out on top with a 6-3, 6-4 victory. Spicijaric never trailed in the first set. Sonkin grabbed a brief lead at 4-3 in the second before Spicijaric prevailed. Sonkin now sits at 6-11 overall, 3-2 in the Big Ten and 4-6 at the No. 4 spot.
The Badgers pushed their lead to 3-1 when Michalicka scored a victory at No. 3 singles. Michalicka, ranked 120th in the country, bested No. 76 Heiser 6-4, 6-2. In the first set, Michalicka jumped out to a 5-1 lead but had to withstand a rally by Heiser that cut the deficit to 5-4. The match was tied 1-1 in the second set before Michalicka took five of the last six games to earn the win. He now sits at 16-1 overall, 4-1 in the conference and 5-0 at the No. 3 spot.
The match-clinching point came when Polley continued his stellar senior season with a win at No. 2 singles. Facing Gonzales, Polley recorded his 11th win in a row with a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 victory. In the first set Polley fell behind 3-0 before rallying back and tying the match at 3-3. Gonzales would then go on to win the next three games. The second set saw a reversal of roles. It was Polley who jumped out to a 3-0 lead and Gonzales who was forced to come back and tie the match at 3-3. The match was again tied at 4-4 before Polley won. In the third set, Polley opened with a 4-1 lead before winning and giving the Badgers their biggest win of the season. Polley is now 13-3 on the year, 5-0 in the Big Ten and 6-3 at the No. 2 position.
Illinois got its second victory of the day with a win at No.1 singles. It was a tightly-contested match that featured two players ranked in the top-45 in the country. No. 9 Rowe defeated No. 44 Baumann 7-6 (5), 4-6, 6-3. Baumann held leads of 5-4 and 6-5 in the first set, but Rowe battled back on both occasions to force a tiebreaker. In the tiebreaker, Rowe prevailed 7-5. In the second set, the match was either tied or Rowe was in the lead until Baumann took a 5-4 lead and closed out the set. It was 1-1 in the third set before Rowe pulled away and took a 5-2 lead before winning. With the loss, Baumann is now 7-7 in dual matches and at the No. 1 spot, and 3-2 in the Big Ten.
The last match of the day came at No. 5 singles and saw Rassow-Kantor defeat Waylon Chin in a match that featured two tiebreakers. Things started poorly for Rassow-Kantor as he fell behind 5-0 in the first set. He did win the next three games though, to make it a 6-3 final. In the second set, Rassow-Kantor again fell behind. This time it was 3-0. He dug himself out of the hole and forced ties at 4-4, 5-5 and 6-6 before the match headed into a tiebreaker. There, he was able to earn a 7-5 victory to force a third and final set. In the third set, the match was tied 3-3 before Rassow-Kantor broke Chin and pulled ahead 5-3. Chin rallied and tied it at 5-5. Like the second, this set would go to a tiebreaker as well. In this tiebreaker, Rassow-Kantor prevailed 7-4. Rassow-Kantor improves to 4-5 overall, 1-1 in the Big Ten and 1-3 at No. 5.
The Badgers return to action this weekend. On Saturday April 5, Wisconsin heads to Bloomington, Ind. to take on Indiana, while on Sunday April 6 the team heads to Columbus, Ohio to face Ohio State. Saturdays match is set for 11 a.m., while Sundays is set for 12 p.m.