Northwestern men’s tennis faces Michigan State, Michigan

Men’s Tennis

Northwestern split a pair of Big Ten foes against the weekend.

The No. The 25 Wildcats (13-7, 2-2 Big Ten) host Michigan State (13-9, 0-4 Big Ten) Friday, winning the Spartans against their last eight showdowns. Michigan State coach Gene Orlando, currently in his 31st year at the program, is the longest-tenured head coach in the conference.

“He’s the elder statesman in the Big Ten,” coach Arvid Swan said. “He’s a great leader within our coaching group.”

NU found the Spartans ‘Achilles’ doubles in heel. Strong serves led to 6-3 set victories at the top two courts and a comfortable doubles point.

Senior Simen Bratholm and graduate student Brian Berdusco were able to reach the decisive point. The duo has only lost one of their last five matches.

“Brian and I played a solid doubles point,” Bratholm said. “That team is really good in doubles.”

In singles, the Cats picked up momentum. Berdusco doubled the team’s lead with a 6-2, 6-4 individual victory over Josh Portnoy.

Sophomore Presley Thieneman needed a tiebreak to win his first set against Graydon Lair, but dominated then. The sophomore posted a 6-0 second-set shutout as corners from Swan praised Thieneman’s forehand setup and play.

“Loosening up and just going for my shots (helped),” Thieneman said. “Trusting myself to control points and have the match on my racquet instead of playing to lose.”

Freshman Felix Nordby put on a comprehensive straight-sets win with the Spartans to reach the match.

The remaining courts went to super tiebreaks. No. 37 Steven Forman, a senior, extended the lead to 5-0, but senior Trice Pickens couldn’t recover from his slow start. Bradholm closed out the match for NU. He staved off a comeback effort from Max Sheldon to finalize the 6-1 overall victory.

“When we play (Michigan State), they’re going to play really hard,” Swan said. “At the end of the match, they played all the way through.”

No. 6 Michigan (14-2, 4-0 Big Ten) arrived in Evanston with a ten-match win streak, including wins over then-No. 1 Texas Christian and No. 2 Ohio State. Forman, a Troy, Mich.; native and the Cats’ top singles player, transferred from The Wolverines in 2019.

NU’s doubles matchups were heartbreakers. Forman and Nordby grabbed a 6-3 win over the nationally sixth-ranked duo of Andrew Fenty and Nino Ehrenschneider. The Cats had match points on the remaining two courts, but both lost tiebreaks.

“I think we played for an hour… usually, the doubles point lasts 30 minutes,” Bratholm said. “Unfortunately, we just didn’t close it.”

No. 27 Ondrej Styler edged out a second set against Forman, but Thieneman defeated No. 43 Jacob Bickersteth 6-2, 7-5 for his first career victory as a ranked opponent.

Thieneman’s plan, anticipating wide serving and creating forehand cross-court rallies, worked to perfection. Tied at 5-5 in the second set, Bickersteth called Thieneman’s return long on a deuce point but was overruled by the chair umpire.

“There was another close return earlier in the game that I questioned and she called it out,” Thieneman said. “I thought I lost that game.”

Berdusco against the Wolverines for a match that clinched Nordby and Ehrenschneider to beat Michigan’s Gavin Young for a break. Pickens lost another three-setter, but Bratholm gave NU a win over No. 1 with a silver lining. 33 Fenty.

A 26-point tiebreak across the first set of recoveries and an early break and saving six set points in Bratholm. He broke late and won 7-6 (14-12), 7-5 on his own serve as the match ended 5-2 overall.

“When it gets to 9-9, you don’t really care if you’re serving or I’m serving,” Bratholm said. “You get tight and nervous, so I just tried to make balls and not waste any points.”

Looking ahead, the Cats will travel to Wisconsin (8-8, 2-1 Big Ten) and Nebraska (5-13, 1-2 Big Ten) next week.

The Cats were a combined 5-0 against those teams in 2021.

“Everyone’s tough in the Big Ten,” Thieneman said. “Getting mentally ready is the key to going.”

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @nathanjansell

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