Northwestern men’s tennis is used to success. After six NCAA tournament appearances in a row, last year’s nine-win-season with a roster high on youth but low on experience was viewed as an aberration. With an influx of new talent combined with the return of every member from last year’s squad, the ‘Cats appear ready to at least surpass their record from last year. In their first match of the season, though, ‘Cats (0-1) slipped up early and couldn’t overcome a 3-0 gap, falling 5-2 to Memphis (1-0).
Despite early positive signs for the Wildcats, the Tigers took the doubles point in nail biting fashion. Memphis pairing Matt Story and Jeremy Taylor stormed back from an early deficit to defeat senior Ben Vandixhorn and sophomore Antonioni Fasano by a 6-4 margin, while Northwestern freshman Simen Bratholm and sophomore Nick Brookes took their set 7-5. With the doubles advantage down to the last set, the Tigers’ Jan Pallares and Patrick Sydow sent their match with junior Chris Ephron and Dominik Stary to a tiebreak. Pallares and Sydow pulled out the 7-6 (9-7) win after Ephron smashed a return into the net.
Memphis quickly took the first two singles matches, as Story defeated senior Jason Seidman 6-2, 6-4, and Palleres took down Bratholm 6-4, 6-4. With the Tigers’ lead at 3-0, Northwestern needed Brookes, Ephron and freshman Trice Pickens to all pull off victories, a tall task against a squad that finished 20th in last year’s ITA rankings. The Wildcats uspet bid looked promising, but just like in doubles, they couldn’t hold the Tigers off. Brookes and Ephron split their first two sets against Chris Patzanovsky and David Stevenson, respectively, and Pickens grinded out a first set tiebreak against Cutting. Patzanovsky, though, took the final set against Brookes to win 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, and complete the Tigers’ victory.
Ephron pulled off a tiebreak victory in the third set of his match to take a 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5) win, but Pickens dropped his match 7-6 (8-6), 3-6, 0-6 to give Memphis a 5-2 win. Although the ‘Cats had chances to win the match, Memphis closed out well behind their senior Patzanovsky to get the victory.
Although coach Arvid Swan would have hoped for a better start to the season, he has the pieces to return the ‘Cats where they belong: contending for Big Ten championships and asserting their place among the conference’s elite. Stary, coming off of a Big Ten singles title this past fall, convincingly won his match, while Brookes performed admirably in court #1. The ‘Cats take the court next at Vanderbilt on January 18 at 1 pm.