Men’s Tennis: Northwestern upsets Alabama, tops William & Mary

Rebecca Friedman

Faced with its toughest challenge of the young season, Northwestern responded.

Off to an impressive 4-0 start in dual matches, the Wildcats racked up impressive wins this week against 51st ranked Alabama on the road as well as a dominant 6-1 victory over William & Mary.

The Wildcats eked out a 4-3 win over the Crimson Tide on Friday in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

“It was a good win for us on the road against a good SEC team,” coach Arvid Swan said. “The guys went in there ready to battle and it was a tough match, so we were pleased to get through it.”

Northwestern won the doubles point against Alabama winning two of the three matches. After sophomore Raleigh Smith and freshman Alex Pasareanu fell to Ricky Doverspike and Michael Thompson in the No. 2 doubles match, senior Josh Graves and junior Spencer Wolf won their match 8-4 to tie it up. Junior Sidarth Balaji and senior Tobias Reitz played the most exciting match of the day, winning the tiebreaker 8-6, and taking the match, 9-8, to give Northwestern the first point of the day.

In singles play, freshman Nikhil Jayashankar clinched the No. 6 singles match, 6-3, 6-0, giving the Wildcats their second point.

“It was intense,” Jayashankar said. “We fought really hard and played a clean match.”

Alabama took two of the next three matches with wins sandwiched between Smith’s triumph in his No. 4 singles match, 6-3, 6-3. With the match tied at three, Graves had the ability to clinch it for the Cats. Jumping out to a quick 6-2 victory on the first set, Graves battled through the second set and won the tiebreaker 7-3 for a 7-6 victory to bury the Tide.

“I saw my teammates around me really competing hard,” Graves said. “That really gave me a lot of confidence.”

The victory marks the second consecutive year the Wildcats have upset the Crimson Tide, 4-3. However, this year’s win was even more special, Graves said, because it came on the road.

“The Alabama match was a great confidence builder for us because it was very humid in the stadium,” Graves said. “To be in front of that crowd and get the win was very exciting.”

The Cats’ solidified confidence helped them jump out to quick start against William & Mary. NU swept the doubles matches for the first point of the day. Graves and Wolf quickly defeated Anton Andersson and Ben Hoogland, 8-1 and Pasareanu and Smith won their match 8-6 to clinch the point for the Cats.

Wolf earned the second point for Northwestern winning two quick sets 6-0, 6-4. The Tribe won their only match of the day in No. 1 singles, as Andersson knocked off Balaji in three sets, 6-2, 1-6, 6-2. After losing the first set 3-6, Pasareanu clinched the match for the Wildcats, winning the next two sets 7-5, 6-3.

Graves and Jayashankar both had strong matches for the Cats. After a 6-4 victory in the first set and a 3-6 loss in the second, Graves’ match lasted the longest of the day as he fought to win the final set by a decisive 6-1 margin.

“The guy I played was a tough player,” he said. “He didn’t make many errors and I had to work for each point.”

Jayashankar struck early, winning the first set in a tiebreaker and the second, 6-2.

“We have a team that fights in doubles and singles and fights through close sets,” Swan said. “I was pleased we got the doubles point again. We came back when we were down a little bit in some early sets.”

Though pleased with NU’s performance, Jayashankar said the Cats aren’t letting an undefeated start go to their heads.

“We know that it’s a long season and we play a lot of good teams,” he said. “We know that we’re capable of beating good teams, but we have a lot more matches to go.”

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