Men’s Tennis: Wildcats close non-conference season strong

Senior Sidarth Balaji plays a forehand shot during a home match. The Wildcats won their final two duals before the start of conference play.

Daily file photo by Meghan White

Senior Sidarth Balaji plays a forehand shot during a home match. The Wildcats won their final two duals before the start of conference play.

Abbey Chase, Reporter

Now finished with the non-conference portion of the season, the Wildcats have surrendered only three matches, tallying a dominant 13-3 record in preparation for the start of a tough Big Ten schedule. With two wins over the weekend, No. 41 Northwestern closed out its non-conference season with a bang, taking out Denver University and the University of New Mexico. 

After falling to the Pioneers at home last season 4-3, the Cats got their revenge, defeating Denver on its home turf on Friday with a 5-1 win. 

Two quick doubles wins put NU in the lead, and a performance from Chris Jackman, in which the senior did not lose a game, gave the Cats another point in their favor.

In his 16 singles matches this season, Jackman has gone to a third set in eight of them, of which he has won five. After the previous weekend’s matches, Jackman stated that he wanted to “come out of the gate a little quicker,” and with his 6-0, 6-0 victory at the No. 6 position, Jackman wasted no time in getting the win.

Quick straight sets victories by sophomore Alex Pasareanu and junior Raleigh Smith helped clinch the win for the Cats and give NU its second win in school history over Denver. 

No. 69 New Mexico had proven little trouble for NU in 2012, but in Sunday’s match the Lobos came up with an inspired performance.

A split at the No. 1 and No. 2 doubles matches put the pressure on senior Spencer Wolf and freshman Fedor Baev at the No. 3 spot. The duo pushed their opponents to a deciding tiebreak but fell 9-8(4) to surrender the first point of the match.

After senior Sidarth Balaji dropped his singles match, the Cats found themselves down 2-0 against their much lower ranked opponents when they were finally able to turn the match around. 

Wins by Pasareanu and freshman Mihir Kumar helped to draw NU even in the match, and with a 6-4, 7-6 win by Smith at the No. 2 spot, the Cats were one match away from the victory, but found themselves in a deciding set in the remaining two matches 

Both Jackman and Wolf were tied with their opponents late in their respective third sets before Jackman broke through to win the final set 6-4 and secure the win for NU. Wolf went on to close out his opponent 7-5 in the third set, bringing the final score to 5-2.

The Cats will now turn their attention to the start of Big Ten play, which begins Saturday with NU’s opening match against Illinois on the road.