Men’s Tennis: Northwestern thrashes Chicago State twice in season-opening matches

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Alyce Brown/The Daily Northwestern

Felix Nordby attempts a forehand shot. Nordby clinched both doubles and singles for Northwestern in the first match.

Nathan Ansell, Assistant Sports Editor

Before the 2022 season, Northwestern had faced Chicago State seven times. In all seven matches, Chicago State failed to score a single team point.

Coach Arvid Swan and NU extended the streak Friday with shutout victories number eight and nine.

“​​The energy was really good,” Swan said. “I thought we moved really well off first serve.”

The Cats started the afternoon with doubles dominance. Senior Steven Forman and junior Natan Spear, the No. 3 doubles combination from last year, got the contest started with a 6-1 victory.

Senior Trice Pickens and freshman Felix Nordby, a duo that played together in fall competition, took care of business at No. 2 to secure the doubles point in their first regular season match as a pairing.

“I think we’ve got skills that complement each other well,” Pickens said. “Hopefully, we’ll be a successful team.”

Singles was just as lopsided. NU’s players won their first sets by a combined score of 36-10. Sophomore Gleb Blekher nearly shut out his opponent, coasting to a 6-1, 6-0 rout at No. 5. Pickens, the No. 92 singles player in the nation, and Nordby made quick work of their opponents too, and the match was wrapped up within 90 minutes.

“(We kept) control on the mindset,” Nordby said. “Since we got a good start in the doubles, (we) just took that with us into the singles.”

Nordby turned in an excellent performance in the night half of the doubleheader as well. He cruised to a 6-1 victory in his second doubles set of the day, this time paired with Blekher. Forman and Spear secured the doubles point shortly after. 

Swan said Nordby was living up to the potential he showed during his international career.

“I’ve been really pleased with (Nordby’s) progress from when he came in the fall, and coming back in January, he’s in really good form,” Swan said. “Sky’s the limit for the kid.”

Spear and Pickens both recorded 6-1, 6-1 individual wins in the night showdown, and Forman overcame shaky moments at the end of the second set to claim an otherwise comfortable victory. Nordby himself was close to a fourth result of the day in his team debut, two serves away from match point when play concluded.

Nordby, a native of Oslo, Norway, was pleased with his first NCAA matches.

“With the national anthem in the beginning, of course, every match now counts a bit more than in the fall,” Nordby said. “I’ve had a great start and a really good day so I just have to keep doing what I’m doing.”

The squad rotated between both matches to give more players experience, with three players making their first appearances as Cats in regular season competition. Even the players who played in both showdowns, however, had more than enough energy to lock down two wins.

Swan credited his players for taking care of their bodies during the offseason.

“Tyler (Jorgensen), our strength coach, has a huge hand in that, but it’s also the work ethic of the guys,” Swan said. “Every single day they’re out here on the court, but also in the gym, so credit to them for the effort.”

After travel cancellations postponed NU’s upcoming match against North Carolina State, the Cats will remain in Evanston to face Memphis, Louisville and IUPUI in a three-day span.

NU defeated all three foes in 2020.

“We’re gonna have our hands full,” Swan said. “(We’re) looking forward to the challenge.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @NathanJAnsell

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