2004 Big Ten Tournament: Championship Final
May 2, 2004
EAST LANSING, MI - Defending tournament champion, and reigning regulars season champ, Illinois, won its third straight Big Ten Tournament title today at the Michigan State Indoor Tennis Facility. The Illini topped Ohio State, 4-1, to push their dual match winning streak to 60, dating back to last year.
With the tournament win, Illinois secures its place in the upcoming NCAA bracket. Number 20 Ohio State is expected to receive an at-large bid when the field is announced later this week.
The doubles point played out exactly the way a championship match should, taking over 60 minutes to be decided countless points at deuce. Ohio State was up a break on two different courts, but the Illini showed they are the defending national champs, storming back to take the point.
Illinois' Ryler DeHeart and GD Jones won the first match, defeating Dennis Mertens and Brenton Contini, 8-5. With the match on serve at 6-5, DeHeart and Jones broke Contini in a game that lasted over 20 minutes. The Illini held serve in the next game to secure the win.
Meanwhile, the second doubles match, between Michael Calkins and Chris Martin of Illinois, and OSU's Scott Green and Ross Wilson, was locked in a tiebreak. Green and Wilson had held an advantage at 7-5 after breaking Calkins' serve in the twelfth game. However, the Illini duo returned the favor in the very next game, bringing the score to 7-6 and the Illinois fans to their feet. The match was abandoned at five all in the tiebreak.
The No. 1 doubles match was as exciting as they come in college tennis. Ohio State's team of Jeremy Wurtzman and Joey Atas put in a valiant effort against the fourth ranked duo of Brian Wilson and Phil Stolt, but fell just short, 8-6. OSU took a lead in the match, breaking Wilson's serve in the seventh game to make the score 4-3, Ohio State. The Illini got their first break at five all with Stolt to serve. The match remained on serve at 7-6, Illinois, with the freshman Atas on the line. Illinois won the first two game points, before letting the Buckeyes back into the game. The team of seniors eventually took advantage of their second match point on a ball that went long, to win the match, and the doubles point, 8-6.
In singles, sophomore Ryler DeHeart clinched the tournament winning point for the Illini. DeHeart beat 2004 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Joey Atas, in two sets, 7-5 and 6-3. His game winning shot came on his second match point and was while Atas was serving.
Senior Michael Calkins and Phil Stolt also won points for coach Craig Tiley's squad. Stolt, who is making his way back from back surgery last year, showed his 2003 from by beating Ohio State's Chirs Klingemann, 6-4, 6-3. Calkins easily defeated his opponent at No. 4 singles for the second straight day, dropping Devin Mullings at three and three.
Ohio State won its only point of the match via a very impressive performance by Jeremy Wurtzman at first singles. Wurtzman came from behind to beat the top ranked player in the country, Wilson, in two sets, 7-6, 6-3. Wurtzman was down a break in the first set, and still recovering from the doubles loss, when he stormed back to take the first in a tiebreak. He went ahead in the second set and survived a late surge by Wilson to secure the victory. The win for Ohio State came just seconds before DeHeart's match clinching point just two courts away. The point was the only one surrendered by the Illini during the 2004 tournament.