Monday, June 5, 2023

Victory slips away from MSU men’s tennis against No. 25 Illinois

April 22, 2023
<p>MSU tennis team cheering on doubles as the Men's MSU tennis team takes on Illinois University at home on April 21, 2023.</p>

MSU tennis team cheering on doubles as the Men's MSU tennis team takes on Illinois University at home on April 21, 2023.

Photo by Gabriel Martinez | The State News

Things were looking up when the Michigan State men’s tennis team initially started its match on Friday evening vs. Illinois at the MSU Outdoor Tennis Center. 

Junior Graydon Lair and sophomore Max Sheldon started off the day by getting a doubles win 6-3 vs. their Illinois opponents sophomore Gabrielius Guzauskas and freshman Kenta Miyoshi

Freshman Ozan Baris and fifth-year Anthony Pero were unable to keep up with Illinois’ junior Hunter Heck and sophomore Karlis Ozolins. It was up to junior Reed Crocker and senior Kazuki Matsuno to defeat Illinois sophomore Mathis Debru and graduate student Oliver Okonkwo for the team to secure the doubles point.  

In a heated matchup it seemed like Crocker and Matsuno had a good chance of winning. The rest of the team was all cheering on the edge of their seat waiting for the outcome. However, missed serves and small mistakes caused the match to go into a tie and eventual loss of 7-6 and 11-9 in the tiebreaker. 

Matsuno said the loss didn’t feel but the match was good at the same time, which is a tough feeling. 


Coach of MSU tennis team watching the game as they take on Illinois University at MSU on April 21, 2023.

“We were a point away a couple times and had good opportunities on serves too but I mean just trying to build off that,” Matsuno said. “Can’t really sulk too much on that, we got another one on Sunday and I think it could’ve changed the course of the match a little bit or at least for singles but you don’t think that way in tennis. Obviously just to succeed you just gotta keep going and going.”   

Matsuno said he and Crocker were getting a lot more reps in and having more fun with the match this time around and it was evident from how they were playing. 

As the singles matches began, freshman David Saye secured an easy win and the only point of the day against Illinois' graduate student Nic Meister, 6-3  in the first set and 6-1 in the second. 

Saye has won five out of his last seven matches and he said it’s been a great feeling. 

“Obviously I started off the season a little bit slower,” Saye said. “And was pretty, you know, frustrated and disappointed myself at the time, but it was great at least ending the season on a good note. Feeling good about it feeling a lot more confident.” 

He said he would like to continue working on his serve more. 

“I think it could be more of a weapon,” Saye said. “Looking across the courts, I feel like most of the guys here have a bigger first serve than I do. So it's definitely something I'm working on and we'll be working on a lot in the summer.” 

The losses kept coming for the team with sophomore Josh Portnoy, losing to Miyoshi, 6-0, 6-2. Then Heck beat out MSU’s Sheldon  6-3, 6-2. 

Junior Luke Baylis was also struggling to keep up on his court losing to Illinois' junior Alex Petrov 6-2 in the first set and 6-3 in the second. 

Pero started off slow losing 6-1 in the first set against Okonkwo but them coming back 7-5 in the second. He ended the third losing 6-2.

Baris was up against Ozolins 6-3 in the first set, starting off strong. He then seemed to fall behind with bad hits and missed balls costing him the second set 6-2. As the fans watched on and cheered, Baris made his way into a third set down 7-6. 


Freshman Ozan Baris serving against Illinois University at the first court at MSU's outdoor courts on April 21, 2023.

In the second tiebreaker of the day, Baris felt victory slip away as he was unable to keep up with Ozolins's fast serves and lost 7-2.

The match ended with Illinois walking away with a 6-1 win.


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