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Men’s Tennis: Northwestern catches fire in February

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The 10-2 ‘Cats are off to their best start in five years.

Ryan Kuttler/NU Sports

Following a 4-0 loss to then-No. 17 North Carolina in Chapel Hill on January 29, Northwestern men’s tennis has won its last six matches and remains undefeated in the month of February. Additionally, the Wildcats are now ranked No. 23 overall in the latest ITA Poll.

In the loss to the Tar Heels on ITA Kickoff Weekend, senior Steven Forman almost upset No. 60 Brian Cernoch. The two were tied at 1-1 in the third set, but UNC reached four points to defeat the Wildcats before the match could end.

The ‘Cats bounced back the next day with a 4-3 victory over Arizona State in Chapel Hill. NU lost two of three doubles matches, but roared back to tie the Sun Devils thanks to singles wins by Forman, first-year Felix Nordby and senior Simen Bratholm. Senior Trice Pickens, ranked No. 92 in singles play, clinched the match with a three-set victory, winning 7-5, 4-6 and 6-3.

Northwestern built on that momentum at home with a 4-3 win over Princeton on February 4 and victories two days later over Duke and UIC. Against Princeton, the ‘Cats took two doubles matches, with Pickens and junior Natan Spear giving the team early control with their 6-2 win. Bratholm turned heads in singles with an upset in straight sets over No. 26 Karl Poling, who was ranked 18th in 2020 before the spring season was canceled.

NU went back and forth with the Blue Devils in their 4-3 win. Pickens upset No. 38 Faris Khan and graduate student Brian Berdusco took a singles match to help give the Wildcats a 3-1 advantage. But Duke clawed back with two singles wins of their own to even the score at three.

All hope looked lost for the ‘Cats when Forman was losing 5-2 in the third set against No. 76 Garrett Johns. However, Forman somehow came back and pulled out the win in a tiebreaker, which he won 7-4, to win the match for Northwestern. The same night, the ‘Cats swept UIC 4-0.

The ‘Cats played on the road the next weekend. On February 11, they defeated Oregon 4-3 in Eugene in another comeback win. Northwestern went down 2-0 after Norby lost his singles match and the team conceded the doubles point. After that, though, victories from Pickens, Bratholm, Berdusco and Forman propelled the Wildcats to their fifth consecutive win.

The team kept rolling two days later in South Bend, defeating Notre Dame 4-2 on February 13. After earning the doubles point, the Wildcats took three of five singles matches against the Fighting Irish. Russell Berdusco provided the decisive blow with his three-set victory. The junior beat Jean-Marc Malkowski 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Northwestern would have been back in action tomorrow, February 20, against Vanderbilt, but that match has been cancelled due to a positive COVID test within NU’s program. It’s unclear how that will impact the ‘Cats, but if the team can remain healthy, they will then head into a brutal part of their schedule the next weekend, with road matches against No. 10 Kentucky and No. 16 Harvard.