Men’s Tennis: With younger players gaining experience, Northwestern looks for first win

Nick+Brookes+connects+with+a+backhand.+The+sophomore+lost+his+singles+match+last+week+in+three+sets.

Daily file photo by David Lee

Nick Brookes connects with a backhand. The sophomore lost his singles match last week in three sets.

Eric Rynston-Lobel, Reporter

After Northwestern’s underclassmen went 0-5 in their last match against Memphis, coach Arvid Swan said the start of the season brings along with it growing pains for the younger players, something that was difficult for the team to prepare for.

Just one week later, he said he expects some of that discomfort to go away.

After losing to the Tigers 5-2 last Sunday, the Wildcats look to rebound as they take on Vanderbilt on Friday and North Carolina State on Sunday. Both matches will be played away from Evanston, as NU continues its five-game road trip to start the season.

The Cats are approaching these matches hoping that the confidence they’ve displayed in practice will translate onto the court. Swan said he’s expecting a different level of performance, especially from the younger players. Despite their inexperience playing college tennis, he said he’s been pleased with their performance in practice this week.

Sophomore Nick Brookes is one of those younger players, but he said he’s learned valuable lessons reflecting back on his freshman year.

“The main thing I learned from last year is the amount of things which aren’t in your control,” he said. “In college tennis, pretty much anything that has a chance to go wrong will go wrong. It’s all about trying to deal with what you can control.”

In Sunday’s contest against the Tigers, Brookes lost his singles match 7-5, 3-6, 4-6 against Memphis’ Chris Patzanovsky. However, although he didn’t get the desired result, he said he had some positive takeaways.

“It’s a match which didn’t go my way in the end, but that’s not to say I didn’t give everything on the day to put my best performance out there,” he said. “It’s one match of twenty, so we’re trying to not get too ahead of ourselves.”

Talking about the younger players on the team, Swan said he believes the biggest adjustment coming from high-level junior tennis to the collegiate level is adapting to the challenges of college tennis.

For the entire team, though, Swan said this week in practice they have focused “a ton” on returning serves in doubles and singles. They’ve also been working on playing more aggressively in singles, something he mentioned as an area for improvement after Sunday’s match.

“We’ve made sure we’ve put an emphasis on singles in terms of making sure guys are playing their game styles and not reverting back to more defensive tennis,” he said.

Another key component for NU against Vanderbilt and NC State will be winning the doubles point it was unable to earn against Memphis. Swan said he won’t make a final decision on his doubles pairings until Friday, adding that the doubles pairs that play Friday might be different from the ones who play on Sunday.

The Commodores and Wolfpack are two programs coming off of very successful 2017-18 seasons. Vanderbilt finished last season 19-9 while NC State was 17-9. Neither team has played in a nonconference match so far this year, and Brookes believes the key to the Cats’ success this weekend is playing “quietly confident.”

“I think we put ourselves under a fair amount of pressure to have a bounce-back year,” he said. “But I think we’re a team that’s at our most dangerous when we’re relaxed, and we’re trying to show ourselves off as best we can on the court.”

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Twitter: @EricR_L

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