Men’s tennis: Northwestern rebounds to take down Memphis and IUPUI after NC State loss


Daily file photo by Joshua Hoffman

Nick Brookes follows through on a shot. The junior won both his singles matches this weekend against Memphis and IUPUI.

Patrick Andres, Reporter

A loss to a ranked opponent on Friday torpedoed Northwestern’s chances of getting through the weekend unbeaten, but the Wildcats recovered with a pair of Sunday wins to run their record to 3-1.

No. 23 North Carolina State’s 4-1 win over NU marked the Cats’ first loss of the young 2020 season. It was a rough outing overall for the home team, as the Wolf Pack claimed all their singles wins in straight sets while bowling over NU in both completed doubles matches, 6-4 and 6-2.

“It was a quality opponent, and our guys fought really hard,” coach Arvid Swan said in assessing the season opener. “It gave us a sense of where our team is and what we need to improve on.”

A bright spot for the Cats, however, was the continued strong play of sophomore Trice Pickens. The North Carolina native, who was sharp in the season opener against Illinois State and earned praise from Swan as “a really hard worker,” handily beat NC State’s Robert Turzak 6-1, 6-3 in singles. In doubles, Pickens put up a good fight alongside sophomore Steven Forman, trailing 5-4 when the match was abandoned.

Two days later, staring down a Memphis team looking for its first win of the season, it was Forman’s turn to shine. The Michigan transfer, in tandem with senior Chris Ephron, orchestrated a 6-4 doubles triumph; after Pickens and senior Dominik Stary dropped their set 6-3, junior Nick Brookes and sophomore Simen Bratholm edged out the Tigers’ David Stevenson and Oscar Cutting in a thriller, 7-5.

“He’s been fantastic since he came over from Michigan,” Swan said of the highly touted Wolverine State native. “He’s a great student, and a great student-athlete, and like Trice, he’s a hard worker… There’s such a high ceiling for him.”

Despite capturing the doubles point, NU wasn’t out of the woods yet. Indeed, Memphis took the first two singles matches, with the Tigers’ Jan Pallares beating Stary 6-2, 6-3 and Stevenson taking care of Pickens, 7-6 (3), 6-3.

From this 2-1 deficit, however, came a Cats avalanche. First, Forman put away James Story in straight sets, 6-2, 7-5. Bratholm followed by downing Patrick Sydow 6-4, 7-5. Before long, Brookes had secured a clinching 6-3, 4-6, 6-2 win over Cutting.

Hours later, NU was back on the court, battling IUPUI in the nightcap of the first of five doubleheaders on the Cats’ schedule this season. The team scored its most authoritative win to date, taking the doubles point and then winning three singles matches in straight sets.

The match took just 92 minutes to complete, 40 percent shorter than the shortest of NU’s previous three matches on the year. Junior AJ Joshi and freshman Russell Berdusco, both seeing their first action of the weekend, bounced Reed Plunkett and Eric Hollingsworth 6-1, and the Forman-Pickens duo finished off Sean Bailey and Ethan Mardanus-Budio 6-2 shortly thereafter.

The Cats proceeded to ravage the Jaguars in a lopsided singles round, keyed by Joshi, who delivered NU’s first double bagel of the season against Michael Koch. Bratholm made quick work of Colton Morehart, 6-1, 6-3; Brookes finished with a dominant win over Bailey, 6-1, 6-3, giving the Cats their first shutout since March 10, 2019 against Illinois-Chicago.

All in all, Swan characterized NU’s maiden voyage as “a great opening start to the season.”

“What I was most happy about, (is) we played our best tennis of the year on Sunday,” he said. “I’m excited for these upcoming matches on the road. I think overall it’s a really good start to the season, and I think the guys feel that way too.”

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