Men’s Tennis: Northwestern looks to stay strong in three-set matches during weekend


Daily file photo by Leeks Lim

Sam Shropshire sets up for a return. The junior has been a key player for the mentally-tough Wildcats this season.

Benjy Apelbaum, Reporter

Men’s Tennis

Up 3-1 and embroiled in a trio of tight three-set matches nearly three hours after play began, Northwestern needed one more win to clinch a victory over Kentucky last Saturday.

It’s a situation coach Arvid Swan has prepared his team for. He said he’s taught his players to stay focused on the task at hand during potentially long matches, rather than getting caught up on past mistakes or becoming intimidated by the comeback they need to mount.

“The big thing for us is momentum in each set and whether you win or lose a set, the next set is basically like a new match,” Swan said.

Swan’s team demonstrated that late-match toughness by winning all three third sets and securing a 6-1 win.

That toughness will be tested again this weekend as No. 20 Wildcats (8-1) face their busiest weekend of the season thus far with a Friday match against No. 30 North Carolina State (9-2) followed by a double-header Sunday against No. 32 Vanderbilt (5-3) and University of Illinois at Chicago (3-3).

Senior Fedor Baev was one of the players who won a three set match against Kentucky. He lost the first set in an excruciating 14-12 tiebreaker before coming back to win the next two sets 6-1, 7-6 (7-4).

“I just try to focus on my game; if I win the second set I try to keep the same mentality and think about the things that were working for me when I was winning and bring that into the third set,” Baev said. “I try to get an early lead as quickly as I can.”

Junior Konrad Zieba has played in three three-set matches this season and agreed momentum and energy play big roles after players demonstrate they are evenly matched through two sets.

Three-set matches can be on the court for extended periods of time after other matches have been completed, allowing the players whose matches are finished to cheer on their teammates. Zieba said his teammates’ energy has helped fuel him late in matches.  

“Third sets come off a lot of the momentum from the other courts, so cheering and supporting your teammates who are also in third sets really helps and motivates you to play better,” Zieba said.

All three opponents this weekend are familiar foes for NU. The Cats are 3-2 in the last five seasons against North Carolina State and have played Vanderbilt each of the last six years, with NU’s first win in that stretch coming last season. NU has played the University of Illinois at Chicago 18 times and has emerged victorious every time.

The Wolfpack is currently on a five-match winning streak and feature No. 53 Nick Horton and No. 74 Simon Norenius at the top of their singles lineup, while the Commodores have won their last two matchups. Once again this weekend, the Cats’ ability to close out tight matches is likely to be tested.

“They’re two rivals we’ve had close matches with in the past, so we’re looking to get two wins and it’s very doable,” Zieba said.

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