The Daily Northwestern

Men’s Tennis: Northwestern rolls past Michigan State, but drops crucial contest at Michigan

Konrad Zieba follows his shot. The senior fell in the deciding match against Michigan on Sunday.

Konrad Zieba follows his shot. The senior fell in the deciding match against Michigan on Sunday.

Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Daily file photo by Daniel Tian

Konrad Zieba follows his shot. The senior fell in the deciding match against Michigan on Sunday.

Benjy Apelbaum, Reporter

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Men’s Tennis

Northwestern showed signs of progress, but narrowly lost its chance at its first top-25 win since January in a loss to Michigan on Sunday.

The No. 21 Wildcats (18-8, 6-3 Big Ten) lost a 4-3 squeaker against No. 14 Michigan (18-5, 7-2) on Sunday, two days after they cruised past conference bottom-feeder Michigan State (10-15, 0-9) 7-0. Though NU lost to the Wolverines, picking up three points against such a competitive team allowed the Cats to take away some positives.

“We were in a position to win against Michigan,” coach Arvid Swan said. “We did a lot of things right and there are a few things we can work on. We came up a little short, but overall I was pleased with the performance. I’m pleased with the direction we’re heading.”

Against the Spartans, senior Strong Kirchheimer put himself in the history books as the winningest doubles player in program history with his 70th career victory.

After winning the doubles point, the Cats put together a dominant performance in singles, losing just one set across all six matches to complete the sweep.

Sunday was a different story, however. The match began when the Cats dropped a critical doubles point. The deciding set came at No. 1, where seniors Sam Shropshire and Konrad Zieba fell 7-5 to the No. 17 doubles team in the nation.

That doubles point would end up being one of the deciding points. Swan, however, tried to avoid being dispirited by the situation, acknowledging that the individual no-ad sets can turn quickly.

“We just got to keep working on holding serve. We were in a position right there to win, it didn’t go our way, but maybe the next time,” Swan said. “We’re in position to win the doubles point so if you’re in position, you’ve done some good things to get there.”

NU then won three matches in straight sets, while losing a pair, to knot the match at three. Zieba played his deciding third set at No. 2 singles with the match in the balance and lost decisively 6-0.

This was the fifth match of NU’s season that came down to the final court; the Cats are 2-3 in such matches. Freshman Dominik Stary said he believes close matches come down to decisive deuce points.

Deuce points are not played at many other levels of tennis, such as on the pro tour, where players must win consecutive points from deuce to take the game. In college however, the first player to four points wins the game.

“It always comes down to deuce points,” Stary said. “Those deuce points can really make a huge difference and today was a great example of how the deuce points can influence the entire match.”

Stary said those high leverage points in particular worked against Shropshire and Zieba in their matches on Sunday.

Though the close loss to a fellow conference contender was tough, Swan believes that with all his starters playing again, NU’s season can reach the heights thought possible at the start of the year.

“We know we’re close to playing our best tennis,” Swan said. “We got a full team playing, which is great, and we’ve got a lot of confidence. We know we’re a good team and I’m very confident that we are going to continue to have good results at the end of the year.”

Twitter: @benjyapelbaum