Northwestern Tennis Knocked From NCAA Tournament After Loss to Kentucky in Round of 32By Ross Shinberg
In a battle between Wildcats, No. 9 Kentucky took out No. 30 Northwestern in the Round of 32 with a 4-2 victory.
This matchup was months in the making as the two teams were originally slated to square off in late February, but positive COVID-19 cases caused a cancellation.
Northwestern started slowly and dropped the doubles point. Steven Forman/Felix Nordby led their set 5-4, but Kentucky’s No. 2 and No. 3 teams won their sets to earn the point.
Momentum quickly shifted away from the home team as Forman knocked out the fourth-ranked player in the country, Liam Draxl, 6-4, 7-6, for the biggest win in his historic season.
Presley Thieneman also found success in a second-set tiebreak at No. 4 singles and defeated Francois Musitelli 7-5, 7-6 to give Northwestern a 2-1 lead in the match.
Simen Bratholm and Trice Pickens battled into third sets against ranked opponents, but each lost the final set 6-4. Kentucky regained the lead 3-2 with two matches remaining.
Kentucky made up for lost time at No. 5 singles as Joshua Lapadet defeated Nordby 6-1, 6-1 to send Northwestern home empty-handed.
Despite Northwestern’s weekend results, the 2021-2022 season saw several high points for the program. The team tallied 20 wins, the most since the 2016-2017 season.
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On March 2, the Intercollegiate Tennis Association ranked Northwestern 12th in the country, their highest point in the ITA rankings in multiple years.
Forman produced one of the best seasons on the singles court in school history. His .808 win percentage is the eighth-best single-season mark in Northwestern men’s tennis history. He won 21 singles matches this season, 16 of which ended in straight sets.
The ITA did not rank Forman until March 9, but he reached his career-high of No. 30 on April 13.
Next season will present major challenges for Northwestern as they look to replace production from their four biggest contributors. Forman, Bratholm and Pickens are seniors and Brian Berdusco is a graduate student.
Thieneman, a rising junior, will likely take the reins as the program’s top singles player and rising senior Natan Spear will anchor Northwestern’s doubles efforts.
One player to watch for in 2023 is rising junior Gleb Blekher. He earned more playing time toward the end of the regular season and has a big serve that can trouble opponents.
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