A Q&A With MSU Tennis Player Artem Ilyushin

Mississippi State men's junior tennis player Artem Ilyushin talks one-on-one with Gene's Page about being selected to the All-SEC team as well as the MSU tennis team.

Ilyushin, ranked 63rd presently, has defeated six top 80 singles foes in 2010-11, one in the top 15. In doubles, Ilyushin teamed with George Coupland to record a 12-4 record this year, including a perfect 5-0 mark in the SEC. He was selected to the All-SEC freshman squad his first year at State. A highly recruited youngster who was ranked among the top 10 junior players in the U.S. (rated #3 on tennisrecruiting.net) and reached as high as #86 in the world (junior) rankings.

What are your thoughts about being selected to the All-SEC team, especially when you consider that the SEC is the top conference in the nation?
"It means a lot to me. You work hard for something the entire semester, then you get honored at the end of it. It feels good, especially when you win the (SEC) West (Division). The hard work all comes together. It feels absolutely great."

You are one of the veterans on the team and have been been with your head coach, Per Nilsson, for the last three years. You've not only worked hard yourself but you've seen how hard he has worked. What does it mean to you to see him honored as the SEC Coach of the Year?
"It means that we are on the right track more than anything, because if he gets Coach of the Year, then he does things better than others. As a result, we have jumped 30 places from last year because we are in in the top 20 right now. That also means if we continue to keep working hard and trusting what he tells us, we can really be great."

Considering everybody will be coming back next year and so many of you have earned some kind of honors this year, what is the excitement level among the players?
"We still have a tournament to go but I think everybody on the team thinks, no matter who we play, that we can beat anybody. That is a great feeling because we work hard and we have confidence."

When did this team become so good. Was there a certain point or maybe a certain game?
"We always knew we could be good. But every team has to develop. It took time for us to make that big step, not just with awards but on paper. I would say this year, due to defeating Ole Miss and the other teams, yes, we knew we deserved to be there."

MSU head tennis coach Per Nilsson talks about junior Artem Ilyushin:

Artem Ilyushin 5-7 Jr. 1L Granite Bay, CA - "Artem is probably one of the most improved players among our top guys. He is really starting to figure out his game. And he's played at the No. 1 (court) lately as well. He beat the No. 9 guy in the country who plays for Tennessee and that guy had been No. 1 (in the nation) the last three years. He is probably the best player in the country and Artem took him down in straight sets."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the GenesPage.com website, the source for Mississippi State sports on Scout.com sports network. You can contact him by emailing swindoll@genespage.com.

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