Champaign Semifinals

Written By: achangeofends - Nov• 19•10

After an unfortunate alarm clock incident, and a very late start, and a 3 hour drive through monotonous farmland, I finally arrived in Champaign, Illinois for the JSM Challenger event. I found my way to the Atkins Tennis Center and sorted out my media credentials, which essentially saved my the $3 admission fee. Still cool and the tournament staff were very friendly. I headed inside to catch the second set of the first doubles semifinal between Klaasen/van der Merwe and Hamui/Singh. It was actually a pretty good match, even though I’ve never heard of any of these guys before. Me and the 10 other people enjoyed it thoroughly. I guess challengers are as underappreciated as they seem. Klaasen/van der Merwe won and I’m still not sure how to pronounce Izak Van Der Merwe’s name. I’ll listen closely at tomorrow’s final.

I was only there for a half an hour before the afternoon session ended, but that worked out well for me. In my rush to leave the house this morning, I decided to skip breakfast and lunch. I wouldn’t have made it through another match without food. I headed off to check in to the hotel, the Hawthorne Suites, and grabbed an early dinner before the evening session.

I arrived back at Atkins around 5:50, where I learned that the Illinois players are il-line-aye, not il-ini, as I had previously thought. This shows you how much I know about sports that aren’t tennis. Amer Delic and Jesse Witten were ready to go after some photo-op for the tourney sponsors. The turn out was a little better for the evening session, there were probably 30 people in the stands and another 30ish in the upper deck which is reserved for tournament guests (players guests, sponsors, patrons, etc.)

Funfact: The 1999 All-American was named Oliver Freelove. Do you think his parents were hippies?

The match started off with a double fault from Witten, who’s serve looked a bit off throughout the warm up. A decent point and then another double, not the best start in the world. Luckily, the serves that went in were good ones and Witten was able to hold. Delic holds at love and Witten double faults some more, obviously frustrated and the racket tossing begins. The upper deck was quite loud throughout the first match and the umpire had to continuously shush them, which was pretty amusing. Unfortunately, the older gentlemen sitting behind me decided they needed to commentate the match. Like every single shot. It’s great if you want to comment on a really great shot or a crazy miss to your friend, but really every point? At this point, I was surprised Witten managed to hold twice with the amount of double faults he kept hitting, but the rest of his game looked good. Jesse’s a little on the short side for a tennis player and I swear he jumped like 2 feet in the air to hit an overhead.

I have no idea how it happened, but Witten managed to get the first break of the match to go up 4-2. After a few deuces and plenty of doubles, Witten consolidated his break and goes up 5-2. Delic holds and Witten will serve for the set, which he wins 6-3. I would also like to note that Amer Delic has gotten rid of the super creepy mustache, so good on him for that.

Unfortunately, Witten continues to serve with absolutely no consistency and Delic goes up a break in the second, 3-1. He squeaks through his own service game to consolidate his lead, 4-1.

I stop to check out the photos hanging above the court. The largest of which is a picture of the 2003 NCAA Champion Team, including Amer Delic and Ryler Deheart (who would play in doubles following this match.) Back to the match, Delic stops play at 40-love on Witten’s serve, but the ball is called in. He will serve for the set at 5-3. Love-30, 30 all, 40-30, and Delic takes the second set 6-3.

At 30 all in the third game of the third set, Jesse double faults and fires his racket at the back curtain, earning himself a warning from the chair ump for using obscenities. The Illini are pleased when Amer goes up a break 3-2 in the decider. However, an extremely unlucky net cord gives Witten a break chance, which he takes to even the set at 3 all. At 4 all, 15 all, Delic seems to look at the scoreboard in disgust, but he follows that with a break to go up 5-4 with the chance to serve for the match.

Love-15, 15 all (questionable call sets Witten off again,) 30-15. Witten pauses to have a discussion with the lineswoman he dislikes, loudly exclaiming, “Why do you still have a job?” Two match points and Delic takes the win, 3-6 6-3 6-4. Witten continued his argument with the chair umpire after the match.

I was looking forward to a break, but Amer changed his shirt (to match partner Bobby Reynolds) and started stretching for his next match. They were going to play straight through. Delic/Reynolds vs. Deheart/Duclos. I was pleasantly surprised by Pierre-Ludovic Duclos, as I didn’t really know anything about him before today.

Throughout doubles, Delic’s knee seemed to be an issue. He played well, but he kept grabbing at it. At one point Amer requested something from the chair, but it was not apparent what is was. Later someone delivered what appeared to be jelly beans and potato chips. He was also drinking a coke on the changeovers instead of water or gatorade. I’m guessing he needed sugar, but I can’t imagine that coke is the best sports drink.

Anyway, the match was pretty close, ending 6-3 6(5)-7 10-8 in favor of Ryler Deheart and Pierre-Ludovic Duclos, who will face Raven Klaasen and Izak van der Merwe in the final tomorrow at noon. The singles final between Alex Bogomolov Jr and Amer Delic will follow.

I’ll be in Champaign again tomorrow for both finals, so look for a recap tomorrow night. I’ve also got a World Tour Finals preview in the works and a couple of fun articles, so keep checking back for updates.

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