Men’s Tennis: Northwestern overcomes adversity to sweep weekend

Abbey Chase

The Wildcats continued their tear through the Big Ten season this weekend, taking out No. 36 Minnesota and Wisconsin to win their third- and fourth-straight matches.

“You’ve got to be ready for anything,” freshman Alex Pasareanu said of the tough conditions. “The points aren’t going to be clean, so you’ve just got to be ready to stick it out and fight.”

Against Minnesota on Saturday, Northwestern took an early hit after falling 2-1 in doubles play. Pasareanu and sophomore Raleigh Smith continued their successful season, winning their 10th match together, but with losses at the No. 1 and No. 3 positions, the Cats were staring at a 1-0 deficit heading into singles play. Before Saturday, the team had not won a match without taking the doubles point.

“It’s been a lot about handling adversity,” coach Arvid Swan said of the team’s success on Saturday and over the course of the season. “We won the (Minnesota) match after losing the doubles point, and I think the team is really doing a good job from a competitive standpoint.”

Despite being down 3-1 in the first set, junior Spencer Wolf rallied to take out No. 80 Leandro Toledo in straight sets to put NU on the board following junior Sidarth Balaji’s loss.

Following Smith’s win at the No. 3 position, junior Chris Jackman’s gritty 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 victory put the Cats up 3-2, but moments later, senior Josh Graves fell in three sets, despite winning the first set.

At 3-3, the match came down to Pasareanu’s match. After winning the first set, Pasareanu and Jack Hamburg were even in the second, with Hamburg eventually gaining the edge 7-5.

“Yeah, it tends to creep in,” Pasareanu said about the expectations of playing in the deciding match. “But you’ve got to embrace it when you have that opportunity to either make it or break it.”

In the third set, Pasareanu held his nerve despite failing to close out his opponent on his serve at 5-3 and finally broke to win the match 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 to give NU the 4-3 victory.

On Sunday, NU faced Wisconsin, a team it hadn’t beaten since 2009.

Unlike in Saturday’s match, the Cats gave themselves an early lead against the Badgers after winning two of the three doubles matches, clinched by Balaji and senior Tobias Reitz’s dramatic 9-8 (7) win.

On the singles court, Jackman and Balaji cruised to easy straight sets wins, giving the team a 3-0 edge. Despite Smith’s 6-0, 6-4 loss, the Cats looked primed to claim the win.

Up a set and 3-0, Pasareanu looked like he was going to seal the victory for NU for the second-straight match. But a spirited comeback by Quinton Vega sent the second set into a tiebreaker, and with Graves and Wolf struggling to close out their matches in straight sets, victory for the Cats was becoming increasingly elusive.

After dropping the second set 7-5, Wolf put away Rod Carey 6-4 in the third to hand NU its fourth-straight Big Ten win.

“I was getting pretty frustrated with myself,” Wolf said. “I thought that I should have closed it out in two (sets) and then I let emotions get to me. I was thinking about winning instead of staying in the moment and I think as I approached the third set, I just tried to stay in the moment and tried not to let all the other factors affect me as much.”

To punctuate a fantastic weekend, Pasareanu won the third-set super tiebreaker 10-8, and Graves rebounded from a second-set loss to take out Frederik Ask 7-6(4), 4-6, 6-2.

“It’s great that we got the wins, it’s great that we’re all playing well, we’ve just got to keep it up,” Pasareanu said. “That’s all you’ve got to do. Just keep practicing and keep fighting.”

[email protected]