Men’s Tennis: Oregon and Notre Dame to test Northwestern’s four-match win streak


Gabe Bider/The Daily Northwestern

Steven Forman high-fives Felix Nordby. Forman and Nordby played at No. 1 doubles for the first time last weekend against Duke.

Nathan Ansell, Assistant Sports Editor

Last week, two of Northwestern men’s tennis’ matches were decided by a single point. Coach Arvid Swan and his team will hope for more comfortable margins this time.

The Wildcats (8-2, 0-0 Big Ten) will battle Oregon (3-1, 0-0 Pac-12) on Friday and Notre Dame (4-1) on Sunday.

“We can use the lessons we learned from how we closed those matches out to improve this next week,” junior Natan Spear said. “Experiencing those close matches is going to be useful.”

NU will be looking to take that momentum to Eugene, Oregon after a comeback victory against Duke that energized the team.

According to Spear, winning in the presence of a few Cats alumni was particularly thrilling.

“That was really fun to enjoy right after the match,” Spear said. “I think everyone enjoyed it for a little bit and then got back to work.”

Two NU players improved their singles rankings this week. Senior Trice Pickens, 9-1 in 2022, climbed to No. 55 nationally. Pickens’ impressive record includes two victories against other ranked players. Senior Simen Bratholm cracked the top 100 for the first time this year, landing at the No. 79 spot. 

Friday’s opponents, the Ducks, don’t have any ranked singles players, but they do boast a top ten doubles pairing in No. 10 Joshua Charlton and Quinn Vandecasteele. Freshman Felix Nordby mentioned that acclimating to Oregon’s facilities would be crucial.

“We know that they have a great doubles team,” Nordby said. “We’re going to prepare well during the practices.”

After Friday’s match, the Cats will face the Fighting Irish on their courts. Notre Dame’s singles is led by Axel Nefve, 2-0 individually so far. Nefve and Matt Che are expected to play at No. 1 doubles.

NU won the last meeting between the two teams, a 4-2 match back in 2020. Richard Ciamarra, who played at the No. 1 singles slot for the Fighting Irish that day, has since transferred to Texas.

“He was always a trouble spot for us,” Swan said. “He’s such a dynamic athlete. But (Notre Dame coach) Ryan (Sachire) has a loaded team, and we’re going to have our hands full.”

Senior Steven Forman, likely to top the Cats’ order once again, would face Charlton and Nefve, both left-handed players. 

Forman, a lefty himself, has faced left-handed opponents in the past, such as North Carolina’s Brian Cernoch. Among his teammates, however, it’s harder to find left-handed practice.

“He’s our lefty on the team,” Swan said. “It’s hard to prepare for that same matchup, but for him, it’s (focusing on) taking care of his own serve.”

Swan has been giving thought to the bottom of the lineup too. Graduate student Brian Berdusco, sophomore Gleb Blekher and sophomore Saiprakash Goli have all rotated through the lower positions recently.

All three will be options over the weekend.

“We have a number of quality players that are capable of playing six,” Swan said. “Part of the decision is matchups … seeing what the opponents have in terms of the style of play at No. 6 as well.”

In doubles, there will be choices too. The duo of Forman and Nordby played No. 1 doubles for the first time last week, swapping with Bratholm and Berdusco.

Swan said he has faith in the Cats’ doubles, no matter the order.

“It means a lot, considering that I’m a freshman,” Nordby said. “It also feels like (Forman) can trust me, playing with him at No. 1.”

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Twitter: @NathanJAnsell

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