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Men’s tennis opens Big Ten Tournament against Purdue

BY SETH ROBERTS | APRIL 29, 2010 7:30 AM

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The Iowa men’s tennis team doesn’t have home court advantage in the Big Ten Tournament. Instead, it has history on its side.

The No. 7-seeded Hawkeyes (12-9, 4-6) will face No. 10-seeded Purdue (11-14, 1-9) in the tournament’s first round today in Bloomington, Ind. Iowa defeated the unranked Boilermakers, 4-3, on April 23 — a win that extended the Hawkeyes’ winning streak over Purdue to five matches.

“We have an advantage because we’ve met them already,” sophomore Marc Bruche said. “At the same time, it was a close match, and every match is different.”

One difference the Hawkeyes will hope to see today is in doubles play. The Boilermakers won the doubles point on April 23 by defeating the No. 1 team of sophomore Will Vasos and senior Tommy McGeorge, 8-2, and the No. 3 pairing of Bruche and senior Patrick Dwyer, 8-6.

The Hawkeyes posted a .455 doubles winning percentage and were 3-7 in conference play. A retooled doubles lineup earned a sweep over Minnesota on Sunday, however, and McGeorge said he thinks the team has found its stride.

“We lost the doubles point the last time we played [Purdue], but we’ll use that we used against Minnesota,” McGeorge said. “We played some good doubles in that meet.”

While Iowa attempts to surprise the Boilermakers in doubles, it must maintain the dominance in singles that led to all four points in the April 23 victory.

Bruche led the way with a quick 6-3 thrashing of P.J. Rose in the No. 1 slot, and senior Reinoud Haal posted the same score over Eric Ramos at No. 4. McGeorge defeated Paul Foley in the No. 5 position (6-2, 6-4), and junior Austen Kauss overcame Thomas Wilson (6-3, 6-4) at No. 6.

Although Vasos fell to Slavko Bijelica in the No. 3 spot, the sophomore pushed the Boilermaker to three sets before succumbing (3-6, 6-1, 6-4). Junior Nikita Zotov lost to Branko Kuzmanovic (7-5, 6-2,) in the Hawkeyes’ only straight-set defeat in singles.

Iowa’s singles mastery of Purdue wasn’t unprecedented. Three Hawkeyes finished the regular season with winning percentages of .500 or better, and Bruche barely missed the mark by going 10-11.

Kauss led the team with a .666 winning percentage through 18 matches, followed by Vasos’ .636 mark in 22 matches. Haal finished third with an 11-11 record.

With the exception of Bruche, in his first year at Iowa following a stint at Baylor, every Hawkeye playing in the tournament has prior experience there. Haal and McGeorge make up the core of the team, and the latter said the side’s familiarity with the format and atmosphere will be an advantage.

“There’s a different feel at the Big Ten Tournament, because it’s one-and-done,” McGeorge said. “There’s more urgency. If you’ve played in it before, you know what to expect, and you can play better. Purdue has a couple seniors as well, and we know they’re going to come out and play.”

The winner of the match will advance to face No. 2-seeded Illinois (17-9, 9-1) in Friday’s second round. The Illini soundly defeated both Iowa and Purdue in the regular season.

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