Northwestern defeats the state of Illinois convincingly

Men’s tennis

On Wednesday, the State of Illinois failed to pose a threat to Arvid Swan’s team.

Northwestern (16-7, 4-2 Big Ten) controlled their game against the Redbirds (8-15, 2-2 Missouri Valley) from start to finish, scoring their third straight win. The Wildcats have never lost a set, starting with a one-sided doubles point and riding that momentum to the end of the match.

Swan went with the usual pairings no. 1 and n. 2 in doubles, but tried a new partnership of second year Gleb Blekher and young Natan Spear at No. 3. The pair showed immediate understanding, clinching the opening point and closing a 6-2 win.

“With (Blekher’s) volley, coming forward and finishing points on the net, I thought he did a great job,” Swan said. “Natan, his partner, was also really good in all facets.”

In single, second year Presley Thieneman remained hot. Thieneman set the tone for the match, continuing his consistent play from the back line and rarely wasting points on the way to a 6-1, 6-0 win, his fifth set in a row wins.

Thieneman’s showdown ended before other camps finished their first sets.

“He’s playing big enough to dictate the game,” Swan said. “His opponents usually run a lot during the match.”

In the upper court, Senior Steven Forman scored another stellar performance. Forman, ranked No. 30 nationwide in singles, he took his 16th individual victory as team leader to extend NU’s lead.

Senior Simen Bratholm secured the fourth crux for the Cats, dominating his first set and securing overall victory. Freshman Felix Nordby, who beat his opponent in the first set, found a 5-5 break in the second set to avoid a tiebreak.

“He didn’t play very well in the first set and I took control early – two loves, three loves and I kept the momentum,” Nordby said. “She raised her level in the second set, and I kept mine, maybe I went down a bit, so the result was a 7-5 and not (another) bagel.”

Senior Trice Pickens jumped 5-2 in the first set, eventually prevailing in a tiebreak. After that, however, his game started crashing.

Pickens changed his strategy, winning four consecutive games to emerge victorious.

“I was being silly at the start of that set,” Pickens said. “He was really good with his backhand. It was a tough shot to attack, but when I started trying to aim a little more of his forehand, he wasn’t as solid.

The contest of PhD student Brian Berdusco finished last. Berdusco, who took last weekend’s victory over Nebraska, didn’t need three sets this time: he saved more set points in the first set and then took over, completing the sweep.

Swan said he was satisfied with the level of team play.

“We wanted to play a good double set, a high quality doubles, and then we wanted to win in two sets (for) all singles games,” Swan said. “That was the goal and we did it.”

After the result of 7-0, Swan and NU turn their attention to Saturday’s game against Illinois (9-13, 2-4 Big Ten). In 22 head-to-head totals against Fighting Illini, the Cats have only won once, a tight match in 2016.

The last time the teams met, Pickens’ game was the last to end when Illinois fled Evanston in a 4-3 win.

“If at some point I need to get some more motivation, maybe I’ll think back,” Pickens said. “But I think my game plan will be to treat it like any other game and try to keep my nose on the wheel.”

E-mail: [email protected]

Twitter: @nathanjansell

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