A Q&A With Per Nilsson

A Q&A with Mississippi State head men's tennis coach Per Nilsson.

Overall, are you pleased with how your season has gone?
"We are pleased with where we are right now, top-10 in the nation. The main thing we are pleased with is we have beaten everybody that we were supposed to beat. We have beaten one team that was ranked higher than us at the time, Florida. But winning those matches is a good sign because we defeated the teams we were supposed to defeat.

"Now we are looking to upset teams. We are looking to beat the best teams. We haven't quite gotten over that hump yet."

Individually, which guy has really played well this season?
"I think it is pretty obvious that Artem (Ilyushin ) has really picked it up this year, except for this past weekend when he lost two really close matches. He lost to the number 7 ranked player in the country who is currently 10-0 in the SEC. Artem is ranked 12th in the nation and was undefeated in the SEC at the number 1 position, which is unreal. He has really stepped it up. I'm extremely proud of what he has done this year."

How important is it to have Artem playing so well for you?
"It is very important to have a really good number 1 guy. You look at all the good teams that is what they all have. And I feel we have that now for the first time in five years. It is really nice for all the other guys to see how he got there."

You have three seniors on this year's team who have been very important to this year's team. But you also have three other guys playing for you. And they've seen how hard the seniors have played and practice since they have been here. That should help you next season when you attempt to replace this year's seniors.
"It is going to be tough to replace them next year. But for our guys to see how hard they have worked I think that will really help going forward. And right now we don't have seniors at the number 2 and 3 spots, so we are looking for them to try and take over that number 1 spot. That will allow the new guys to fill the void left by those guys."

You have a very important match this Saturday against Ole Miss. What are your thoughts about that match?
"It will be extremely tough. We have already beaten them once this year but beating someone as good as them twice is not easy in tennis. Going to their place where it will be very hostile will make it even tougher to defeat them. They are going to be gunning for us because they have to beat us to get a share of the West (title).

"I know my guys aren't just happy to beat them just once. They want to beat them twice, so I know it will be a really good match."

No matter what happens this weekend, you will have won the West title two straight years. How important is that to your program?
"I don't know how much it helps to have won the West when you are looking from the outside. We will have a championship and recruits will see that but more importantly we are fighting for that third spot in the SEC championship.

"Defeating Ole Miss will really help us going into the SEC Tournament and the NCAA Tournament. And that is what we want."

Speaking of the SEC Tournament, it will be held at MSU during Super Bulldog Weekend. Talk a little about that.
"We have clinch (at least) the top-four seed going into the tournament no matter what happens against Ole Miss. So, we won't have to play that Thursday. Our first match will be on Friday. We are hoping we will have a huge home court advantage. Anyone who comes to the tournament is going to see some great tennis. There are four teams in the tournament who could win the NCAA (Championship). Anybody who watches the SEC Tournament could possibly see the team that wins the NCAA."

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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