Men’s tennis: Cats drop pair of duals despite doubles success

Steven Montero

In its last home matches of the season, No. 75 Northwestern could not overtake No. 52 Michigan State or No. 27 Michigan, but the team had moments to be proud of.

The Wildcats reclaimed one of this season’s prized gems, the doubles point. The No. 2 and No. 3 doubles teams won their matches against both teams to continue NU’s strong doubles record.

“It was good that we won both doubles points,” coach Arvid Swan said. “We’ve just got to find a way to get three singles matches against those teams. We clearly need to work on some of our singles games.”

On Friday NU had a good chance to beat Michigan State, as the Cats led 3-1 with three singles matches left on the courts, but the Spartans fought back to tie the match at 3-3. The match then depended on the No.1 singles result.

Junior Joshua Graves was this last man on the court. He said he felt the pressure mounting as the match came down to his victory. Already down a set, he fought to win the second set and eventually forced the match into a third set tiebreaker. However, he couldn’t pull off the win.

“Once I got the lead I didn’t play quite as well as I could have,” Graves said. “I learned from it but I think that really everyone relies on everyone else so I happened to be the last guy on the court but everyone has a responsibility to try to compete their best and win the match.”

Saturday’s match against Michigan showed a bleaker singles performance, as the Wolverines were able to bounce back from the doubles point deficit and take down the Cats with four consecutive singles victories.

Graves faced a similar situation as the last man on the court against Evan King, ranked in the top 25, but this time the pressure was off, and the match had already been decided.

“I don’t know how long that match was, two, two and a half hours,” he said. “The reason I kept fighting was because I wanted to just prove that I had learned the right things from the previous day and made improvements right away.”

Graves was playing at an “extremely high” level of tennis against King and continues to improve with his work ethic, Swan said. Yet he could not pull off an upset and fell in a second set tiebreaker.

The bright spot of the weekend was senior Andrew McCarthy’s domination of every opponent. As the team’s sole senior, he was honored on Saturday night at the last home game of his NU career. Fittingly, he finished “in great fashion” in both doubles and No. 5 singles, Swan said.

“We came in at the same time and he’s a great kid and someone who I’ve enjoyed having on the team over a four-year period,” Swan said. “Obviously I was very proud of the way he played this weekend.”

McCarthy said Friday’s outcome was a “tough pill to swallow” but in his No. 2 doubles match with junior Tobias Reitz, he managed to win over an old opponent, against whom they had lost to last season.

“I was focusing on the things I can control and not worried about the things I couldn’t,” McCarthy said. “Another important part was not getting too up or too down, so that allowed me to stay level throughout the match and even when the match got close and tight, that kind of level of composure helped me to think clearly and execute effectively in those critical moments.”

Swan said McCarthy’s presence will be missed next year and Graves added that he’s a great teammate and recalled playing tournaments against him when they were younger.

“I have had a ton of respect for him since I was 12 years old,” Graves said. “I remember he used to jump rope on the changeovers in matches, which was unheard of. The guy works himself like an animal, physically pushes himself to the limit in the gym and on the court. To see him get those wins yesterday I was really happy for him.”

McCarthy’s ferocity and aggressive playing style will surely be helpful as the Cats try to advance in this week’s Big Ten Tournament, where they hope to play at a higher level.

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