By Athena Liu
The Northwestern University Men’s Tennis Team dropped Friday’s home match against Vanderbilt University 3-4, with a 3-3 in singles matches and a 0-1 in doubles.
NU sophomore Dominik Stary achieved a come-from-behind victory for the game against his nationally ranked Vanderbilt opponent Daniel Valent. Wildcat freshman Nick Brookes also played a high-quality match in his first time at No. 2 singles, though falling to No. 50 opponent Cameron Klinger 2-6, 6 (6)-7.
Here are five more numbers to remember from Friday’s match.
In the seven dual matches the team lost this season, Northwestern dropped the doubles point six times. While doubles matches are played before the singles, this means the Wildcats will have to start the singles with a 0-1 disadvantage.
“They are just young,” commented Head Coach Arvid Swan regarding the freshmen’s doubles performance. “We just got to keep working with them. It takes time.”
Swan has appointed six different doubles squads during this dual season. Chris Ephron/Michael Lorenzini and Ephron/Antonioni Fasano both finished with a 3-1 record, while the current No. 1 doubles Stary/Ben Vandixhorn lost six out of 11 matches played. Their winning percentage is 45.45 percent, the fourth in all doubles squads.
Stary and his opponent Valent scored as high as 13-11 in the first to 10 tie-break after a 1-1 tie in the first two sets.
Facing No.52 Valent, Stary dropped set one 3-6. But he managed to refocus on the match and play more flexibly. The result remained up in the air as Stary came back and took the second set 7-5 after a 2-5 start, leading the match to a deciding tie-break. Although Northwestern had lost the dual match after dropping three other singles matches, the two players still fought hard. With support from the audience and teammates, Stary completed a comeback after an unfavorable 6-8 score in the tie-break and wrapped up the match 13-11 with a critical service break.
Stary owed his victory to “pure luck,” he said. “In the last couple of matches, it was very often that I was losing the deuce points. This time I was also lucky enough to come back and won a couple of tie games and deuce points.” Stary said.
Obviously, his toughness helped him generate his luck. “I was down 5-2 in the second set, I managed to win three deuce games, made it 5 all and then obviously I fought better and I was just lucky.”
With Stary’s epic victory, Northwestern has improved its winning percentage of No. 1 singles to 33.33 percent. Prior to Friday’s match, the ratio was 25 percent.
At the beginning of the dual season, the No. 1 singles was mainly played by Fasano, who had won a singles title at the Big Ten Singles and Doubles Tournament at Michigan State in October. Although demonstrating outstanding strength and concentration in the matches, the freshman lost five out of six matches played at the No. 1 singles spot this dual season, facing more experienced players. After assigned as the No. 1 singles, Stary won two matches, including today’s triumph over a ranked opponent, and lost one against No. 28 Alex Lebedev of Notre Dame.
Northwestern did not enjoy much victory in February. After opening the season with a 2-2 record in January, the Wildcats achieved a 2-5 result this month, having fallen to No. 9 Oklahoma State, No. 19 Duke, No. 22 Notre Dame, Louisville and Vanderbilt on Friday.
“When you play a tough schedule, sometimes you may take some losses,” said Swan before a Feb 6 practice.
Now, as the month is drawing to an end, the team has taken four more losses. The coach said on Friday that he hoped everyone was learning from that and continuing to improve.
The Wildcats’ last February game will be a road match against Harvard on Sunday.
Vanderbilt remains seemingly undefeatable when facing unranked teams. Their only two losses were against No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 8 Columbia, both with a close 3-4 score. They also won both two encounters with Big Ten teams, with a 6-1 victory over Michigan State on Jan 21 and the 4-3 victory against Northwestern on Friday.
UPDATE: In the road match on Sunday, Northwestern fell to Harvard 3-4. The complete February record for the Wildcats is 2-6.