Men’s Tennis: New beginnings for NU against Ball State, UIC

Rebecca Friedman

After an inconsistent fall, Northwestern may be more excited than most to return to the court.

Northwestern will open the regular season on Sunday with matches against Ball State and the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Despite no player advancing past the second round of the Big Ten Singles Championship, the Cats remain optimistic about season-opening matches.

“We’re confident,” Coach Arvid Swan said. “Obviously wins build momentum, but we’re going in confident.”

Last season, NU faced Ball State and UIC in its season opener, claiming two decisive 6-1 victories. However, the Cats said they are not taking their opponents lightly.

“Ball State usually wins the (Mid-American Conference) and UIC often wins their conference,” Swan said. “So I expect them to be two very competitive teams.”

According to Swan, to prepare for Ball State’s “great energy in doubles,” the Cats have been focusing on making sure their doubles pairs are meshing well together. Senior Josh Graves added the team has been working on specific doubles skills that they hope to implement into the matches this weekend.

Because of NU’s uneven play in fall competition, the team has focused a lot on the psychological aspect of the game.

“(We’ve been working on) not getting off focus and playing hard all the time,” freshman Alberto Zanotti said. “The most important thing is to be a competitor, and the results will come.”

The team aspect of the game was also emphasized throughout the break between seasons. Zanotti said everyone on the team worked hard in the fall and the team is primed for success because it does not depend on just one or two players.

The Cats are also sparked by the addition of new Assistant Coach Chris Klingemann, who played for Ohio State.

“He’s tremendous,” Swan said. “He’s a great coach that came from a great program at Ohio State and was a high-ranked professional player. I think he’s going to help our team a lot.”

Graves added Klingemann helps bring energy and intensity to practices and even hits with the players to help expose them to his higher level of play.

NU heads into the weekend with an optimistic attitude about the rest of the season.

“It would be great to make the NCAA Tournament,” Graves said. “We did it my freshman year and had a couple of rough seasons, but that’s the main goal for the year.”

The matches this weekend are the first step to accomplishing that goal.

“We just need to take one match at a time and see where this season takes us,” Graves said. “We’re excited to start playing matches.”

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