Men’s Tennis: Seniors reflect on careers ahead of possible home finale


Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Fedor Baev prepares to smash a forehand. Baev, along with fellow senior Mihir Kumar, will be celebrating their careers this weekend on Senior Day.

Garrett Jochnau, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Tennis

For the Wildcats, the upcoming weekend against Michigan and Michigan State represents what might be the final opportunity of the season to perform before a home crowd.

But for two players in particular — seniors Mihir Kumar and Fedor Baev — the homestand will be even more sentimental. After four years of playing at Northwestern, the veteran duo will look to exit with a bang. With Sunday’s match officially Senior Day, both Kumar and Baev will command a heavy spotlight.

“It’s for sure going to be special,” Baev said. “I’ve had four fantastic years here … and getting a win would obviously be incredible. … It will certainly be sad seeing this time of my life come to an end, but hopefully it won’t be the last match we play (at home).”

If No. 15 NU (21-2, 7-0 Big Ten) retains its top-16 ranking, it will have the opportunity to host its first- and second-round NCAA Tournament matchups. But even one loss could doom the Cats’ chances of doing so, making every remaining game monumentally important.

No. 21 Michigan (17-4, 6-1) — who NU draws on Friday — will be the first test of the weekend. The Wolverines sit a game behind NU in the Big Ten standings and boast an impressive resume that features a win over now-No. 24 Tulsa.

“(Coach Arvid Swan) is from Michigan,” Baev said. “It’s a big rival of ours. We’d love to beat them as absolutely bad as we can, so if we can achieve that, it’d be a great start to Senior Weekend.”

And although the duel against a ranked Michigan team certainly appears more imposing on paper than Sunday’s battle with a bottom-feeding Spartans squad (10-14, 0-7), Swan and his players maintain that, in conference play, every matchup is a challenge.

Still, for the seniors, Michigan State is more than just another Big Ten opponent.

In April of 2013, when Kumar and Baev were freshmen, the team was upset by the Spartans 5-2, with Kumar losing both his doubles and singles matches. Three years later, the loss is still in the back of his mind.

“I remember (my) freshman year, we got thrashed by Michigan State, so there’s always motivation,” Kumar said. “To be able to come back, make amends for that, would be awesome.”

And yet, even with opponent-specific motivation and a desire for a Big Ten championship driving them forward, the seniors will have to juggle a number of emotions as the regular season winds to a close.

“I’ve been playing for 14 years,” Kumar said. “It’s hard to think that this could be my last few matches in tennis.”

But both Kumar and Baev are ready to make the most of the limited time left.

And although the team will look to win on behalf of its seniors, it still has its eye on the road ahead, Swan said.

With the weekend’s matchups giving the team a chance to further prove its dominance, the Cats are prepared to couple the seniors’ send-off with what they hope will be a traditional, resume-boosting victory.

“It’s been an amazing four years for Fed and I,” Kumar said. “It’s exciting that it’s such a big match, these last two matches, so we have a lot to play for still. We have a lot of our goals still on the table and we want to make sure that this isn’t our last home match — that we can potentially host — but it’s definitely exciting for our last regular season match.”

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