Men’s Tennis: Northwestern falls to Memphis, bounces back against Louisville and IUPUI


Gabe Bider/The Daily Northwestern

Natan Spear (left) and Trice Pickens (right) exchange a fist bump. Spear and Pickens set the tone for the Wildcats to claim the doubles point against IUPUI.

Nathan Ansell, Assistant Sports Editor

An early singles lead slipped away from Northwestern on Friday, but the Wildcats rebounded with a pair of wins on Sunday to salvage the weekend.

NU (4-1, 0-0 Big Ten) was outmatched by Memphis in doubles, a disappointing showing for a team that captured 12 doubles points in a row last season. The Cats recovered well at the start of singles, however, as seniors Steven Forman and No. 92 Trice Pickens both took down ranked opponents with the same 6-1, 6-3 score to put Swan’s squad in the lead.

“It always helps to start the season strong, especially playing at the top spot,” Forman said. “But there’s always room for improvement, so you’re going to try and get better as the season goes on.”

However, the Tigers pounced on NU after that. Memphis recorded wins at No. 2 and No. 5 in quick succession and erased a set deficit at No. 6 to win the match 4-2.

It was up to coach Arvid Swan to recenter the team following the defeat.

“We had some good takeaways after the match,” Swan said. “I was pleased with the level of improvement from Memphis to Louisville.”

On Sunday, the Cats once again folded in doubles, dropping two close sets to the Cardinals (2-2, 0-0 ACC) after Forman and freshman Felix Nordby turned in a dominant 6-1 performance.

Swan once again tested different doubles combinations, swapping graduate student Brian Berdusco in the No. 1 duo for his brother, junior Russell Berdusco. He also put Pickens and junior Natan Spear together for the first time in team competition.

“We’re always trying to find the right pairings early in the season,” Forman said. “Everyone’s ready to play with everyone.”

In singles, NU turned it around. Pickens and Nordby registered two-set victories, continuing NU’s strong play in the middle of the singles order. After sophomore Gleb Blekher’s comeback at No. 5 fell short, Forman reclaimed the overall lead with a three-set triumph.

Then, in just his second ever appearance, sophomore Saiprakash Goli earned his first individual result — a 6-4, 6-4 win on the far left court to clinch the match 4-2.

“It’s good to have matches under my belt, good for the confidence,” Goli said. “I just want to keep improving from here.”

The Cats rode that momentum into the evening match against IUPUI (0-2, 0-0 Horizon League), dispatching the Jaguars at No. 2 and No. 3 to get back on track in doubles play.

NU found singles success across all six courts against IUPUI. Pickens and Forman each picked up their third individual victories of the weekend, and Goli capitalized on his opponent’s errors to secure his second match of the day, a 4-0 sweep.

“Point by point, nothing really special,” Goli said. “I try to go through my weapons and then attack the (other) guy’s weaknesses as well.”

Goli was one of a handful of Cats who did not have their serve broken against IUPUI. Every NU player took their first set of the day, and none were trailing in second sets as the match ended.

Forman, who also won every game while serving, said that it allowed the rest of his plan to fall in place.

“I’m someone that relies on being able to hold serve a lot and put pressure to be able to get breaks when I’m holding,” Forman said. “That’s always where my game starts, service games.”

Next, the Cats will embark on the first road trip of the season. Their ITA Kickoff Weekend regional starts with a showdown against the regional host, No. 13 North Carolina (1-0, 0-0 ACC). 

The two teams met in last year’s event, with the Tar Heels earning a 4-0 victory. North Carolina boasts a top 20 doubles pairing and formidable athletes at all six singles positions.

“For the last five years, they’ve been really highly nationally ranked,” Swan said. “We’re gonna have to put a complete match together against them, doubles and singles.”

Forman agreed with his coach’s assessment.

“We love to have the opportunity to play ranked teams on the road,” Forman said. “It gives us a measure of difficulty that maybe we don’t see before, so I think it’s always a great test.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @nathanjansell

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