Tennis for men
No. 47 Northwestern (10-5, 9-4 Big Ten) took victories on Friday and Sunday and continued to climb the Big Ten standings.
On Friday, the Wildcats avenge February’s loss against Minnesota (7-6, 7-6 Big Ten) with a 5-2 win at Evanston. The competition was crowned by junior Steven Formans back to No. 1 in singles order. Forman, who sustained a wrist injury in the summer, made his season debut in 2021 during a doubles match on March 19.
He’s such a big part of our program, he’s doing everything right, coach Arvid Swan said. It’s great to have a man who is so good at a player, but who also cares so much about his teammates, about his own game, and about being well prepared.
Swan has been following Formans’ rehabilitation process for the past few months, saying the junior was doing everything he could to return to court in full. After dropping his first basehit off of Golden Gophers Jackson Allen, Forman fought back to take a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) victory.
I couldn’t expect to necessarily play my best in the first singles match I played in about nine months, but I just felt confident that I could play better, Forman said. If I could just perform a little bit better, be a little bit sharper, I thought I had a good chance.
While the doubles of graduate students Dominik Stary and Chris Ephron decommissioned Minnesota Vlad Lobak and Bodin Zarkovic, Forman and sophomore Natan Spear needed a tiebreaker to secure their set and overall double track. The Cats did not relinquish control after that.
“We have better retained the advantage we had from the doubles to the singles, and we were able to get a 3-0 lead,” said Swan. That put a lot of pressure on Minnesota when (we) had three on the board, we only needed one more.
NOW, the momentum continued on Sunday, beating Wisconsin (4-10, 4-9 Big Ten) for the second time this season. Five of the six Cats single matches ended in straight sets during the 7-0 result. NOW won all four tiebreakers in the shutout, including both sets Formans 7-6 (7), 7-6 (0) victory over the badgers Jared Pratt.
It’s always a bit of luck, but I’ve gotten it right and found a way, Forman said. The second tiebreak, I got off to a good start. That is always important.
Other NU players enjoyed more comfortable paths to individual wins. Swan said Stary and Ephron have been a really strong doubles match, with Stary in particular bringing a tremendous amount of experience to the No. 2 spot in the Cats lineup.
Wisconsin was the last team to take the Cats’ doubles game. Sunday marked nine consecutive games in which NU earned that early advantage.
Were one of the better teams in the country in doubles, Swan said. We have a system that we play that works well with many different game styles. Even when we lost a colon, it was close.
NU’s upcoming road games against Nebraska (1-11, 1-11 Big Ten) and Iowa (4-10, 4-8 Big Ten) will create new challenges. Swan said their facilities and court speeds are different from NUs, meaning the Cats will have to adapt.
Getting used to those conditions and possibly those games being outside, with Nebraska as a master in the early evening, possibly playing under the lights is a different experience, Swan said.
Despite the unknown circumstances, Forman plans to prepare for the match as he always does.
(Im) just focus on trying to prepare as best I can to play the best I can, he said. Physically, mentally, everything.
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