Men’s Tennis: Northwestern incorporates freshman class during fall season


Daily file photo by Kate Salvidio

Ben Vandixhorn goes to his backhand. The junior and the Wildcats competed in several tournaments during the fall.

Benjy Apelbaum, Assistant Sports Editor

Men’s Tennis

After its top three players graduated at the end of last year, Northwestern reloaded with four talented freshmen.

Every member of the Wildcats participated in singles and doubles matches across four tournaments during the fall season. While results for the young team were mixed, the highlight came when freshman Antonioni Fasano won the Big Ten singles tournament in late October.

That tournament, held for the conference’s less established players, was won by then-freshman Dominik Starý last season. Fasano won five straight matches to claim the event, including a semifinal matchup with fellow freshman Nick Brookes, who retired in the second set after losing the first.

In addition to their singles success, Fasano and Brookes also won two matches as a doubles team to advance to the semifinals, where they lost in a tiebreaker to a team from Iowa.

“Overall, everyone did really well, especially Tony did well at the Big Tens,” coach Arvid Swan said. “It shows he can compete with anyone, so I think there’s a lot of potential.”

The freshman from Sao Paulo, Brazil, is likely the most promising player in NU’s class and was ranked as the No. 8 newcomer in the country by the ITA. In addition to Fasano and Brookes, the freshman class is rounded out by Johannes Abrahamsen of Norway and AJ Joshi of New Jersey, who was ranked as the No. 20 recruit in the U.S.

Brookes racked up the most singles wins of any individual during the fall and finished with an 8-3 record. He shined at the ITA Midwest regionals where he picked up a three-set victory over the No. 79 player in the country, Kennosuke Nouchi of Western Michigan. After two wins, he lost in two tight sets in the round of 16 to the No. 2 newcomer in the country, John McSally of Ohio State.

Brookes, the 6-foot 6 freshman from England, performed well in the fall, and said the atmosphere at NCAA tournaments differed from his experience competing back home.

“Compared to back home, the atmosphere around college tennis is a lot more upbeat, everyone is a lot more positive and it’s a lot louder,” Brookes said. “You’ve got to try and impose yourself on court so you’re not seen as the underdog who is shying away.”

The Cats will need to find numerous new contributors after losing the trio that played in the top three spots of the lineup for the past three years. This iteration of NU is much younger and has no seniors after the only member of that class transferred in 2015.

The fall season provided a glimpse of what NU has lost. Last year, senior Strong Kirchheimer won the ITA Midwest Championship, but this time no individual got past the round of 16 at the same tournament.

“The fall season was a good lesson for us,” junior Jason Seidman said. “We lost a couple of our good guys and I think it really showed what level we need to achieve in order to do well in the spring. We could have done better; however, it gives us a gauge and tells us what we need to work on.”

The fall also offered an opportunity for Swan to test out new doubles tandems. The only regular pairing that will return is junior Michael Lorenzini and sophomore Chris Ephron, who played No. 3 doubles last year. One high-profile combination Swan tried out was pairing last year’s No. 4 and No. 5 singles players, Starý and junior Ben Vandixhorn, who played in two tournaments together and had a 2-2 record.

More generally, Swan said he was not as concerned with the results of the fall season, but rather with preparing his young squad for the team season in the winter.

“We looked at a lot of different doubles options, but really the fall is just about getting better,” Swan said. “I’ve been pleased with the progress in terms of team dynamic. … We have improved throughout the fall, so I’m happy about that.”

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