Friday, May 8, 2015

An interview with Dennis Nevolo (from February)

In February, while covering the 2015 ITA Indoors for, I had the occasion to sit down for a few minutes with Dennis Nevolo, a former University of Illinois All-American who was on the sidelines for the Illini during the tournament. Today, as the NCAA tennis tournament starts, here, finally, is the transcript from the interview, conducted after Illinois beat Cal 4-0 in the first round.

On the Rise: First of all, I wanted to talk about you personally. I notice you’ve been off the circuit for a while. Do you want to tell your fans what’s going on with you?
Dennis Nevolo: Yeah. I was in the finals of the Irvine Futures [in September] and I slipped and fell on match point against Alex Sarkissian, and tore a ligament in my left thumb. I was fortunately able to pull out the win  [6-7 (17!) 7-5 6-3] but I unfortunately had to get surgery later that month, so I’ve just kind of been rehabbing and decided to go finish my undergrad – I still had about 12 hours left of school – so I’ve been finishing that up, and I’m the volunteer assistant this year.

I had the surgery October 20.

OtR: So how’re you enjoying your time back at Illinois?
DN: It’s been really cool. It’s obviously a different experience when you’re on the outside looking in. It’s been interesting kind of just being able to relate to some of the players and just kind of knowing that I’ve been in their shoes before. For me, it’s not … I don’t have to do too much. I’m the volunteer, I’m going to try to just be as supportive as I can, and just enjoy the ride.

Dennis Nevolo in 2011, posted with
permission by Colette Lewis
JK: Can you give us a sense of how your pro career has gone up until the injury?
DN: I started playing summer of 2012 and it’s just been a grind, playing the Futures circuit, the Challenger circuit. I think the biggest thing has just been finding my niche, finding what I’m going to do and then on top of that, showing up every week and competing at my highest ability. That’s been the toughest part, stringing good weeks together. But I finished on a strong note – played 3 Futures, won 2 out of 3, so when I come back, I’d like to definitely give it another shot. Really start to try to break into the Challenger circuit and just give myself the best chance to succeed.

JK: Are you going to be able to go with a protected ranking at all?
DN: Yeah, the protected ranking – I ended up at 340 but unfortunately the protected ranking will bring me back down to about 415, but that’s not a bad place to be, and I’ll just be smart with my scheduling.

JK: Were you there, or did you watch the Champaign Challenger [in 2014]? And what kind of experience was that for you either way?
DN: I didn’t watch it last year. I played it the year before, and made the semifinals, so I wasn’t able to defend those points, but I heard it was a great run. Our number one doubles team [Tim Kopinski and Ross Guignon] actually won the tournament – I watched a little bit of that online, so I was really happy for those guys.

JK: Now just from a coach perspective – your win yesterday seemed pretty comprehensive. Were you pleased with the group?
DN: Yeah, everybody is I feel like in a good spot right now. The first match is always a really tough match, just because of nerves and obviously we’re hosting. So to get a win under our belt is great. But I feel like we have a chance to build some momentum here. We’re going up against a really tough Georgia team but if we can come out and play with good enthusiasm, I think it’s going to be a good day for us. [Georgia d. Illinois 4-2 in an extremely tight match.]

JK: Nice having this event in Chicago?
DN: Yeah it’s a nice easy two-hour drive here so it’s not too stressful and the city of Chicago is an unbelievable city and I grew up on these courts, playing tournaments here, and it’s a great atmosphere to have a tournament.

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