Men’s Tennis: Northwestern holds off Western Michigan, remains undefeated

Abbey Chase

In a dual match that featured two matches that reached a third set and two sets decided on tiebreakers, Northwestern maintained its undefeated record on Saturday, edging out Western Michigan 5-2.

As they have in all their matches this season, the Wildcats gave themselves an early lead, claiming the first point after going 3-0 in doubles play.

Junior Sidarth Balaji and senior Tobias Reitz continued to be an effective pairing, closing out their opponents 8-2, while the duo of sophomore Raleigh Smith and freshman Alex Pasareanu improved its record to 4-1 after defeating Zeyad Montasser and Aaron Wong 8-3, securing the doubles point for NU.

At the No. 1 doubles position, senior Josh Graves and junior Spencer Wolf toughed out a competitive 8-4 win over Nadin Indre and Ross VanderPloeg, using their effective teamwork to overcome an unusually high number of unforced errors.

“We had to win when we weren’t playing our best but we’ve been playing great together,” Graves said. “We have good momentum as a team right now so I felt really good that we got through that with an 8-4 win.”

On the singles court, Graves regained his form, easily taking out Simon Blomberg 6-3, 6-0, while Wolf made similar adjustments to defeat Pablo Olivarez 6-3, 6-3.

But routine wins were scarce for the Cats on Saturday, as the rest of the singles lineup had to fight through its respective matches.

“If the match is extended, we’re expected to compete and we did that and we got the win,” coach Arvid Swan said of his team’s tenacity in Saturday’s match.

At the No. 4 position, Smith played a grinding match against Montasser, closing out the first set 6-3 after a marathon game on his serve at 3-2. Smith raced to a 5-1 lead in the second set but needed four more games to eventually put away the Western Michigan senior 6-3, 6-4, claiming the win for NU.

While it was a successful day for the team, Balaji and Pasareanu both suffered tough losses in two dramatic matches. At the No. 1 position, Balaji failed to close out Indre after quickly winning the first set 6-2, falling 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.

Pasareanu had a similarly difficult day. After losing the first set 2-6, he dug himself out of a 3-0 hole in the second and went on to serve for the set. In a second set tiebreak, Pasareanu could not convert on his three match points and let a 5-1 lead slip away, falling 6-2, 7-6(9).

Freshman Nikhil Jayashankar ended the day with the Cats’ fifth win, extending his undefeated singles season. Jayashankar easily took the first set 6-1 but lost the second 3-6 after Wong made a spirited comeback.

“I was playing a lot better than him in the first set,” he said. “In the second set, what happened is basically he picked up his game and I didn’t really adjust and he went for his shots, made his shots and got some confidence.”

Jayashankar served for the match at 5-4 in the third but Wong fought back yet again and sent the deciding set into a tiebreak, where Jayashankar effectively countered Wong’s high energy to take the tiebreak 7-4.

“I’ve been a lot more focused in my game than I was in the fall,” Jayashankar said. “I’ve been able to keep up the intensity in my matches and not have as many on and off days.”

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