Men’s Tennis: Wildcats sweep Arkansas, fall to Michigan during ITA kickoff weekend


Daily file photo by Gabe Bider

Graduate student Trice Pickens and senior Natan Spear celebrate during a doubles match.

Alyce Brown, Assistant Audience Engagement Editor

Northwestern traveled to Ann Arbor this weekend for ITA kickoff, triumphing in a 4-0 victory over Arkansas before stumbling in a tough 0-4 loss to 4th-ranked Michigan on its home courts. 

The Wildcats came into the weekend off a loss to Louisville Jan. 22 and battled to play both matches tight, starting with Arkansas on Saturday.

The pairing of grad student Trice Pickens and senior Natan Spear kicked off the team’s doubles efforts, quickly and handily winning their set and protecting their own unbeaten doubles record. 

NU clinched the doubles point soon after when the top duo of grad students Ivan Yatsuk and Simen Bratholm broke the final game of their set to win 7-5. 

Following a convincing doubles point, the singles matches were more of a battle. Bratholm picked up the first singles point for the Cats, beating Arkansas’ Adrien Burdet in straight sets 7-5, 6-4 and finishing far before any other matches. 

Graduate student Steven Forman stumbled early, giving up the first set to Arkansas’ Stefanos Savva, but he broke Savva on the last game of the second set to win the set and force a third. He made quite a comeback in that third set, dominating it 6-0 and winning the second singles point for NU. 

The finishing point was snagged by junior Gleb Blekher, who won his first set1 in a tight tiebreaker and took set 2, 6-4. The Cats beat the Hogs 4-0 in a battle, pushing themselves into Sunday’s match against 4th-ranked Michigan. 

The match with the Wolverines started evenly in doubles with one victory each -– Michigan picked one up early before NU’s Bratholm and Yatsuk impressively snagged one against 14th-ranked pair Andrew Fenty and Gavin Young, 6-4.

The doubles point came down to the Cats’ duo of Pickens and Spear, who lost a tight tiebreaker to end their own 4-0 unbeaten doubles record and give the Wolverines the doubles point.

Michigan came out strong in singles, but NU put up a fight. The Wolverines snagged the first two singles points rather quickly, with Bratholm and junior Presley Thieneman both falling in straight sets.

On court 2, Yatsuk fell the first set to 16th-ranked Ondrej Styler, but dominated to end the second set 6-0 and force a third. Yatsuk played Styler closely but ended up losing the third set in a tiebreaker, giving Michigan its fourth and final point to end the match 4-0.

After this loss, the Cats will not be advancing to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, but they will be returning to Evanston after both a hard-fought win and a hard-fought loss. 

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