Men’s Tennis: Northwestern vanquishes Oregon, Notre Dame to extend streak


Gabe Bider/The Daily Northwestern

Simen Bratholm serves the ball. Bratholm was the first Wildcat to post a singles victory on Friday and Sunday.

Nathan Ansell, Assistant Sports Editor

Northwestern men’s tennis certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

The Wildcats (10-2, 0-0 Big Ten) reached into their bag of tricks to win two nailbiters, scraping out a 4-3 victory against Oregon (4-2, 0-0 Pac-12) on Friday before outdueling Notre Dame (6-2) in South Bend, Ind. 4-2.

“It’s just a credit to our players for how hard they’re competing,” coach Arvid Swan said. “We’re playing well in critical moments.”

NU’s match against the Ducks started in favor of the home side. Oregon, armed with a 10th-ranked duo at No. 1, won on two of three courts to get on the scoreboard first.

Graduate student Brian Berdusco and senior Simen Bratholm took a 6-3 set at No. 2, but it wasn’t enough.

“We got a couple break points,” Berdusco said. “We went from there and our match went pretty well, but they’re a good team.”

In singles, the Cats refocused themselves, knowing they would need four wins. A split wouldn’t be good enough.

The Ducks doubled their lead with a victory at No. 5, but Bratholm and Berdusco won their showdowns to level the overall score. Berdusco exploited his opponent’s positioning over the course of the day.

“He stood pretty far back on the return, so I was able to use both wide serves against him, then come in and finish at the net,” Berdusco said. “That took away one of his strengths.”

Sophomore Presley Thieneman wasn’t able to hold on in a third set, but senior Steven Forman won his own three-setter to level it at 3-3. It boiled down to senior Trice Pickens, who fought throughout a back-and-forth third set. 

Battling back from being down a break, Pickens found his own break later on and converted on match point, winning 4-6, 6-4, 7-5.

“(Pickens) has a lot of confidence with his fitness level, and that helps him to play fully and compete hard for those three sets,” Swan said. “He doesn’t tire out.”

With the result, NU broke Oregon’s 18-match home win streak — the Ducks’ first loss in Eugene, Ore. for nearly two years.

Two days later, the Cats took on a solid Fighting Irish team. This time, NU produced the opposite doubles result — Bratholm and Berdusco couldn’t get their serves going, but NU found success on the other two courts for a 1-0 lead.

Bratholm was once again the first Cat to achieve a singles win. Swan praised the senior’s trademark aggressive style, noting how his athleticism allowed him to attack short balls.

Thieneman put a disappointing first set behind him to defeat Connor Fu, putting NU ahead 3-0. He called the win, his first of 2022, a “confidence booster.”

“Getting into (Fu’s) backhand was definitely something that worked a lot,” Thieneman said. “He was trying to go for big shots and win points quickly.”

However, Notre Dame threatened. Forman and freshman Felix Nordby each ceded defeat, narrowing the match margin.

Berdusco rescued the Cats again. He squandered a couple break point opportunities early in the third set, but eventually took control of the court and clinched the match, NU’s sixth straight victory.

“It felt good to get that team win,” Thieneman said. “That was a huge win on the road.”

The Cats will attempt to make it seven in a row against Vanderbilt (4-0, 0-0 SEC) next Sunday. The Commodores are coming off an impressive performance against Virginia Tech.

Vanderbilt owns the all-time series, but the last matchup between the two teams resulted in a 7-0 for NU.

“They have five indoor courts rather than six, that provides a unique challenge,” Swan said. “We’re going to have to play very, very well.”

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Twitter: @nathanjansell

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