There were clearly no first game jitters from the ‘Cats.
Northwestern (1-0) rolled over Illinois State (0-1) in their home opener to start off the season. Despite a bevy of new faces, the ‘Cats dominated proceedings from the get-go, making short work of the doubles point before grinding out five straight-set wins for a 6-1 win.
Highly-touted transfer Steven Forman looked sharp in his first career start or Northwestern, pairing with Trice Pickens for a 6-1 doublies win over Nam Pham and Aleksa Lazarevic on court #3. Dominik Stary and Chris Ephron defeated Brandon Lew and Melker Isaksson 6-3 to capture the doubles point for the ‘Cats. Simen Bratholm and Nick Brookes, last year’s number one pairing, looked a little off-color in their unfinished match on court #1, but both players rebounded during singles.
The ‘Cats controlled almost all singles matchups with ease, winning five matches in straight sets. Bratholm finished off Lazarevic 6-2, 6-2, and was almost immediately followed by fellow sophomore Pickens’ 6-1, 6-4 result over Pham. Stary secured the overall win for the ‘Cats in a routine 6-2, 6-1 win over Jorge Quispe.
Forman raced out to a 6-0 first set lead on court #1, before struggling in the second and falling behind by 0-2 and 3-5. The sophomore came alive afterwards, winning three games in a row for a 6-0, 7-5 win. Brookes defeated Pol Botifoll Rius 6-4, 6-4 on court for Northwestern’s fifth and final win of the game. First-year Russell Berdusco dropped both of his sets to Melker Isaksson, 5-7, 5-7.
Coach Arvid Swan inserted Forman into the top singles spot, and the former five-star recruit responded with two emphatic performances. Needless to say, an intriguing subplot for this year will be how Swan toggles his lineups to account for Forman. His strong service game and powerful forehand were visible throughout the match, but time will tell if he can improve on his 3-7 singles performance from last season.
The ‘Cats will take on North Carolina State on Friday at 6 p.m. at Combe Tennis Center.