Men’s Tennis: Wildcats take care of business in two Big Ten victories


Daily file photo by Brian Lee

Mihir Kumar serves one up. The junior has formed a dynamic partnership with sophomore Alp Horoz, as the duo has gone 9-1 in the No. 3 doubles spot this season.

Max Schuman, Reporter

The most glaring blemish on a strong Wildcats season to date was the conference-opening loss to Illinois, but this weekend did as much as possible to rectify that.

It wasn’t easy, but with a nail-biter at No. 27 Indiana (9-4, 0-2 Big Ten) on Friday and comfortable wins over conference rival Purdue (4-7, 0-2) and Western Illinois (0-10) at home on Sunday, No. 21 Northwestern (11-5, 2-1) put on arguably its best stretch of tennis of the season.

And with important conference matches looming, the wins spoke to a larger goal in mind.

“We want to win a Big Ten championship, and we need these matches to do that,” sophomore Sam Shropshire said.

The match against the Hoosiers went down to the wire. After dropping the doubles point to open the contest, NU surged back in singles behind victories from Shropshire and fellow sophomores Strong Kirchheimer and Alp Horoz to get the match to 3-3.

From there, junior Fedor Baev took over to win a third-set tiebreak in his match against Indiana’s Matthew McCoy at the fifth spot. That secured a 4-3 victory for the Cats, the importance of which could not be overstated.

“The win at Indiana was a season-changing victory for us,” junior Mihir Kumar said. “To fall to 0-2 (in Big Ten play) would’ve been tough.”

Even head coach Arvid Swan, ever focused on the next match, agreed the victory was a big step, denoting the triumph as a “really encouraging” performance.

With momentum like that, late-match heroics weren’t necessary for the Cats against the Boilermakers, as the home team jumped on its conference rival quickly in doubles to take an advantage it wouldn’t surrender. After six straight-sets singles victories, NU closed out the perfect 7-0 match in their Big Ten home opener.

The Cats went on to finish the weekend with another 7-0 sweep Sunday night against in-state opponent Western Illinois.

Swan noted the improved energy in doubles in Sunday’s matches as another welcome development. Inconsistencies against quality opponents have plagued NU there, as the Cats have taken just nine of 16 of these all-important points to start matches.

NU might finally have found a groove in doubles by following the lead of the pairing of Horoz and Kumar at the third spot. The energetic duo won two more matches this weekend to go to 9-1 on the season and extend its win streak to eight.

“We’re playing well, and our games complement each other well,” Kumar said. “(Horoz is) so solid. I’m just trying to keep up.”

Up and down the lineup, the team is loose and playing well just as the matches are beginning to matter most. Swan feels the team is motivated to sustain this momentum and avoid a lull as it dives into the heart of Big Ten play.

“We play a lot of good teams and the guys are really motivated,” he said. “We’re going to keep grinding it out day-by-day now.”

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