Men’s Tennis: Northwestern unable to close out lead, falls to Denver, 4-3

Abbey Chase

For the second straight weekend, Northwestern had victory within its reach but could not close it out, falling at home to the University of Denver in a tight 4-3 loss on Sunday.

The Wildcats (7-5) have now lost three straight matches and five of their last seven after winning their first five matches of the season.
Another tough day on the doubles court meant that the Wildcats were once again fighting from behind heading into singles play.
After splitting the first two matches, the doubles point came down to juniors Sidarth Balaji and ChrisJackman anchoring the No. 2 spot. The two teams swapped breaks before Jackman went on to serve for the set at 7-6 but could not shut out the Pioneers. In the tiebreak, NU had eight match points but could not convert on any of them, and Max Krammer and Fabio Biasion eventually took the marathon tiebreak 16-14.
“I told them it was a tough one obviously,” coach Arvid Swan said. “We had a bunch of match points but I told them that ‘It is just one point in the match and that we have to focus back on singles and each of you guys needs try to get a point back.’ So they did a good job in responding, that’s for sure.”
Jackman wasted little time in recovering his game, putting on a dominant performance to take out AlexClinkenbeard 6-1, 6-0 to put the Cats on the board.
Denver regained the lead with a win over sophomore Raleigh Smith at the No. 2 position. Though he needed three sets to do it, Balaji made a comeback from his earlier disappointing doubles loss, taking out Jens Vorkefeld 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 to even the team score at 2-2.
A three-set win by freshman Nikhil Jayashankar put NU within reach of the victory at 3-2 but when fellow freshman Alex Pasareanu, playing through a left knee injury, dropped his match, the score was level once again.
The match came down to junior Spencer Wolf at the No. 1 position. Wolf fell behind 5-2 in the first set to Enej Bonin but gritted his way back into the match to send the set into a tiebreak, where his comeback ran short and he fell 7-0.
“I just kind of stuck with it mentally and didn’t give up,” Wolf said of his first set comeback. “I think for the most part I’m pretty resilient and in all my matches it’s kind of the same. I never give up, even when I’m down by a big lead. He was playing well at the beginning. It just took me a while to figure it out.”
An early break in the second meant Wolf was forced to fight from behind yet again. After his teammates had all finished their matches, Wolf found himself in a must-win position down 2-3 in the second and rose to the challenge.
“Well I kind of knew that it was going to come down to me but if anything, it just made me fight harder,” Wolf said. “I don’t mind being in that situation. I’ve been in that situation many times before.”
Hitting all out on both wings, Wolf took it to the Denver junior and sent the second set into another tiebreak. Wolf appeared to be in control after taking a quick 6-2 lead but Bonin made things interesting by leveling the score at 6-6. Wolf would not be denied, however, and a quick two points kept NU’s hopes of victory alive.
But it would be Wolf’s final push of the day and despite a tenacious effort, he could not secure the win in the third set.
Wolf continued to play aggressively until the final point, hustling for every point and matching Bonin’s power but could not recover from an early deficit and dropped the third 6-1, leaving the Cats to walk away with another tough loss at home.
“I definitely give Denver a lot of credit, (Bonin) got the momentum early in the third,” Swan said. “Spencer did a great job to get it to a third set. It was really just a match where the momentum went one way to another very quickly.”