After Northwestern’s men’s tennis team kicked off its season with three thrilling wins, including one against No. 19 NC State, it’s endured three equally deflating defeats in the five matches since.
Less than a week after taking down their first ranked opponent of the season, the ‘Cats traveled to Louisville, only to be swept 4-0 by the Cardinals. Against a respectable Arkansas team, NU took its own broom out of the closet, shutting out the Razorbacks en route to a victory. And versus No. 4 Michigan, Northwestern was — you guessed it — swept, 4-0.
As you might’ve picked up on by now, turbulence lines Northwestern’s rackets. But despite the unbalanced nature of its contests, the team managed to work its way into the ITA Collegiate Tennis Team Rankings following its trip to Ann Arbor, checking in at No. 23.
The culmination of Northwestern’s wild three-week slate crescendoed in a travel-heavy weekend. First, the ‘Cats squared off against No. 18 Harvard at Combe Tennis Center, eventually losing 5-2.
Steve Forman, a grad student and the ‘Cats’ leading singles man, entered his game with a tidy 2-0 record. Forman was taken care of quickly by Harris Walker, who boasts a top 50 ranking in the ITA’s list.
On the more fortunate side of the court, Trice Pickens, another leading graduate student for NU, protected his flawless singles record against the Crimson. Pickens took down Steven Sun in a back-and-forth ordeal. He moved to 3-0 in the singles division and looks to continue his ascent up the ITA’s National Singles Rankings, where he’s sat at No. 110 since the last edition was released in November.
Overall, Northwestern picked up two singles wins, as Presley Thieneman took out No. 105 Marc Kitri in a speedy game. The team had nothing to brag about in the doubles category, dropping both of its completed contests.
Forced to rebound quickly from a tough loss against a ranked opponent, NU traveled to Durham, N.C. to take on the No. 25 Blue Devils. The ‘Cats had better success against Duke, eking out a 4-3 team victory.
Forman got his revenge and some, beating the fourth-best player in the country, Garrett Johns. The win is big for the grad student, but it’s something he’s relatively familiar with, having taken down multiple high-profile opponents last season.
Truly playing into the theory of volatility, Pickens proceeded to drop his game against an unranked Connor Krug, falling to a 3-1 record in the process.
Thieneman and Gleb Blekher were the two other Wildcats to earn singles wins on the day.
In the doubles matches, NU got its groove back. Felix Nordby, a specialist in pair play, teamed up with Forman to clutch a win against Johns and Pedro Rodenas. Pickens and Natan Spear also finessed a tough win out of the Blue Devils.
It’s evident that consistency is not the ‘Cats’ strong suit — at least not yet. The last time the team either won or lost back-to-back games was in its debut tournament back in mid-January. It remains to be seen how such performances will alter their position as a top-25 squad, but rankings aside, coach Arvid Swan will need to stabilize his unit in order to make a deep run into the NCAA tournament come May.
In the meantime, Northwestern looks to stack some wins against unranked competition. On successive weekends, it’s got Alabama and Clemson. The team will wrap up February with joint matches against Memphis, Vanderbilt and UIC at Combe Tennis Center from Feb. 24-26.