January 16, 2020
Northwestern delivered a haymaker in its season opener, claiming a 6-1 win over Illinois State in a match where the Redbirds posed little threat to the Wildcats.
NU (1-0) dove into the match headfirst, taking the doubles point after a pair of thoroughly dominant performances. First, sophomores Steven Forman and Trice Pickens smothered ISU’s Aleksa Lazarevic and Nam Pham, 6-1. Then, senior duo Chris Ephron and Dominik Stary pulled away from Brandon Lew and Melker Isaksson of the Redbirds, 6-3.
The third doubles pair, comprised of junior Nick Brookes and sophomore Simen Bratholm, saw their match halted; Brookes and Bratholm led ISU’s Jorge Adair Bartra Quispe and Diego Le Gal Perez 5-4 upon suspension.
Bratholm made up for his first match’s abrupt end by giving the Cats their first singles point, handling Lazarevic 6-2, 6-2. Stary and Pickens assured NU of the win shortly thereafter, beating Quispe 6-2, 6-1 and Pham 6-1, 6-4, respectively.
The Cats applied the coup de grace with window-dressing triumphs from Forman (6-0, 7-5 over Perez) and Brookes (6-4, 6-4 over Pol Botifoll Rius). The Redbirds found a small measure of vindication in the final match of the night — Isaksson defeated freshman Russell Berdusco, 7-5, 7-5.
NU is coming off an up-and-down 2019 campaign where the Cats opened the season 0-3, string together a five-match winning streak in a nine-day span in February, and ended on a 1-4 skid. A telling stat for NU was the disparity between its home and away records: the Cats were 10-4 in Evanston, and 3-9 on the road.
A slew of key pieces, however, have returned from last season’s team. Stary has played 66 matches in three years in the No. 1 spot in singles and doubles. Brookes was 12-5 in doubles in 2019, and Pickens and Bratholm each gained valuable experience their freshman years.
Forman, on the other hand, transferred from Michigan in the offseason and will look to contribute right away. The Troy, Michigan native was a decorated recruit coming out of high school, being named Michigan’s Mr. Tennis in 2018 and twice garnering All-American honors.
The match marked the first of four matches in a five-day span for NU. On Friday, the Cats will meet NC State at the Combe Tennis Center, a formidable foe that shut out NU 4-0 in 2019. After a day off, the Cats will play a doubleheader Sunday, clashing with Memphis at noon before taking on IUPUI at 5:30 in the evening.