Men’s Tennis: Northwestern closes out the regular season with a split weekend in Michigan, eyes Big Ten championships


Daily file photo by Ziye Wang

Trice Pickens and Natan Spear. The duo put up a fight against Michigan this weekend, eventually going down 7-5.

Alyce Brown, Audience Engagement Editor

No. 26 Northwestern split a pair of matches on the road this weekend, closing its regular season with impressive efforts against Michigan and Michigan State. 

The Wildcats (19-8, 7-2 Big Ten) had an opportunity to pick up a huge conference victory against No. 7 Michigan (22-3, 8-1 Big Ten) on Friday and avenge a 4-0 loss to the Wolverines in January. 

The team managed to hold its own in doubles, but it wasn’t quite enough. The No. 80 duo of graduate student Ivan Yatsuk and junior Gleb Blekher forced the Wolverines to a tiebreaker on Court 2, but fell 7-6. Michigan then clinched the doubles point on Court 3.

Graduate students Steven Forman and Simen Bratholm, the No. 61 duo, were cut off in their match against Michigan’s No. 8 pair on the top court, where they went blow-for-blow with each other and were in the middle of a tiebreaker at cutoff time. 

After the tight slate of doubles matches where the Wolverines’ dominating power didn’t make much of an appearance, it roared out in singles.

Michigan took five out of six first sets, with the sole victorious Wildcat being No. 60 Forman on Court 1. He converted that momentum into NU’s only point of the match, taking down No. 11 Andrew Fenty in straight sets for a huge personal win. 

Elsewhere, it was Wolverine territory. Michigan took down Bratholm and Blekher first, then clinched the match on a successful tiebreaker over junior Presley Thieneman, ending the Cats’ upset hopes 4-1. 

Up until the very end, NU consistently fought. Many matches remained close, and the effort from the Cats against a talented Wolverine team showcased a strength that bodes well for their Big Ten Tournament hopes. 

NU found a much easier battle against No. 66 Michigan State on Sunday. 

Despite a Spartan pickup on Court 3, doubles proved quick work for the Wildcats, who took courts 1 and 2, both 6-4, to tally the doubles point. 

Thieneman jumped out first in singles, as he did last week against Wisconsin, to build on NU’s lead with a 6-4, 6-2 victory on Court 5. Blekher quickly followed with a 6-1, 6-3 takedown on Court 6, emphasizing the Cats’ strength on their lower courts. 

The clinch came from Bratholm, who took his match 7-5, 6-3 to close out the Spartans 4-0. The rest of the courts finished their matches, making the final score a deep 6-1 victory for the Cats. 

Although a Wolverine upset earlier in the weekend would have been a resume booster heading into the postseason, the pickup against the Spartans was a valuable addition to NU’s conference victories and improved that record to 7-2. 

From here forward, all that’s left for the Cats’ season is all-important tournament play. The Big Ten Tournament takes place later this week, where NU’s No. 3 seed books them a ticket straight to the quarterfinals on Friday, where it will rematch with Wisconsin. When the teams met last weekend, the Cats took a 4-1 win.

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Twitter: @alycebrownn

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