Men’s Tennis: Doubles domination leads to Northwestern drubbing of New Mexico

Rebecca Friedman

No. 64 Northwestern jumped to 7-2 on the season with a convincing 6-1 victory over No. 59 New Mexico on Sunday.

The victory contributes to a successful nonconference campaign for the Wildcats, who have three matches remaining until conference play begins.

NU grabbed early momentum with a 2-1 advantage in doubles to gain the doubles point, a crucial part of its success this season. The Cats have clinched the doubles point in eight of their nine matches and are 7-1 when heading into singles up 1-0.

Their doubles play has been a huge focus for the team at practice, and coach Arvid Swan is pleased to see the team’s preparation paying off in matches.

“We’ve got a system that we play, and the guys have bought into it,” Swan said. “I feel like they know where the shots should go and where they should cover. We’re working really hard in doubles and we strive to get better each day.”

Junior Spencer Wolf attributed much of the team’s success in doubles to new assistant coach Chris Klingemann, who has helped to institutionalize the team’s doubles system.

“Everyone knows what to do, everyone knows where we’re going to hit the ball,” Wolf said. “We drill really hard in practice, so it doesn’t even matter who we play with because we know what we’re going to do.”

The No. 3 doubles pairing of Wolf and senior Eric Spector clinched their doubles match first with an 8-4 victory. The No. 1 pairing of sophomore Raleigh Smith and freshman Alex Pasareanu won their match, 8-6, shortly after to give the Cats the doubles point.

Spector and teammate junior Chris Jackman were back in the lineup for the first time at home this season after being sidelined by injury. Jackman played two matches in Nashville, Tenn., a week earlier, while Spector’s doubles match against New Mexico was his first action all year.

“I knew that they would come in and do a good job. They met my expectations,” Swan said. “Eric won at No. 3 doubles and was returning really well and finishing at the net. Chris did a great job in both doubles and singles. He was extremely competitive at singles with a straight set win, so I was really proud of both guys.”

NU was without key player senior Josh Graves, who was out due to injury, but the team still found success in singles, with all but one of its five singles victories coming in straight sets.

No. 6 singles player Jackman was the first Wildcat to win his match, taking it 6-2, 6-4. Smith followed suit, winning his match 6-2, 6-2. At No. 2 singles, Wolf smoothly defeated New Mexico’s Ben Dunbar, 6-2, 6-2, to clinch the match for NU.

“I stayed in the moment really well. I wasn’t focused on other matches or what the score was,” Wolf said. “I had a game plan and I just executed it well today. Everything just felt good.”

Junior Sidarth Balaji also won his No. 1 singles set, 6-2, 6-4. However, the match was much closer than the score indicated. Balaji and New Mexico’s Jadon Phillips competed in incredibly close games, and each point was crucial to the outcome.

“I knew coming in that he was a tough player that plays long points and puts a lot of balls in play,” Balaji said. “I knew I had to be steady and stay focused out there and not give him anything. I need to go for my shots and be aggressive while staying relaxed and playing my game.”

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