Men’s Tennis: No. 21 Northwestern seeks homecourt boost against Kentucky


Daily file photo by Zack Laurence

Strong Kirchheimer (right) celebrates with a teammate. The junior will look to help lead Northwestern on Saturday when it will play its first home match in more than two weeks against Kentucky.

Benjy Apelbaum, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

Northwestern returns to the friendly confines of the Combe Tennis Center this weekend after playing five of its last six matches away from Evanston.

The No. 21 Wildcats’ (7-1) five-game homestand begins with a matchup Saturday against Kentucky (6-1).

NU has prospered no matter where it has played, compiling a 5-1 record away from home, including wins over Rice and Cornell last weekend. But even with their success on the road, the Cats are looking forward to returning home.

“It’s tough playing on the road, especially Cornell,” junior Sam Shropshire said. “Their facility got very loud, so their fans made a big difference for them.”

Coach Arvid Swan said he was particularly happy about the energetic environment at the last NU home match against Notre Dame and expressed hope that NU would have enthusiastic support throughout the rest of the year.  

But fans do not create the only home-court advantage in college tennis. Teams use different types of hard court surfaces that can affect both the speed of the ball and the height it bounces. These discrepancies can make a significant difference in competitive matches when little separates players’ skillset.

“When we’re at home, we know the court surface, we know the speed of the court,” Swan said. “When you’re on the road you have to get used to the speed of the court and different conditions. Playing at home, you’re much more comfortable with the surroundings.”

However, the team does not seem to need the additional assurance of playing at home considering its four-match winning streak over ranked teams, including three-straight away from home. NU’s ability to win against top competition may have a lot to do with its strong starts to matches. The team has continually gotten off to hot starts and has won the doubles point in all seven of its wins.

Starting strong is especially important in the doubles portion of college tennis because matches are decided after only one set instead of the best-of-three format that is played in singles.

“In doubles, we always say that first to four games is a very high percentage of winning, so we always try to get to four games first,” senior Fedor Baev said.

Putting importance on the early games has paid off for Baev and his partner, junior Strong Kirchheimer, who have compiled a 4-2 record at the No. 1 doubles spot.

Regardless of location, Swan believes his players have developed a positive attitude, and the momentum and confidence NU has gained during its successful start to the season will help carry the team through its difficult schedule.

“It’s a confident group,” Swan said. “I feel like we’ve been playing well the early part of the season. I think a big thing in sports, certainly in tennis, is just playing confidently in singles in doubles and we are doing that.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @benjyapelbaum