Despite wins, Wisconsin still looks to improve

first_imgAfter picking up two victories this past weekend, the Wisconsin men’s tennis team seems pretty aware of where it stands.Singles play continues to dominate. Doubles, however, is something that could still be fixed — and if it does get fixed, the Badgers could become much more lethal come tournament time.“We’ve been, in the last few years, pretty solid at the top of the lineup (in singles) and we’re getting some wins down low now as well,” assistant coach Evan Austin said. “If we can get our doubles going a little bit it’s going to give us a chance to beat some of those higher ranked teams.”Though the Badgers (14-6, 4-2) did come away from the weekend unscathed against Purdue and No. 48 Northwestern, it was evident that doubles could still be retooled a bit.Against a lackluster Boilermaker team on Saturday, the Badgers showed brute force early when senior Michael Dierberger and sophomore Patrick Pohlmann pulled off an easy 8-1 win.The rest of doubles, however, was not quite as breezy. Senior Luke Rassow-Kantor and freshman Chris Freeman lost their match, and suddenly the doubles point rested on No. 15 Moritz Baumann and Marek Michalicka, who struggled against the Boilermakers.Purdue’s Branko Kuzmanovic and Slavko Bjelica frustrated the Wisconsin duo with limited mistakes at the net. Kuzmanovic mastered the net points with careful touches that frightened the Badgers with a 5-4 lead. However, the scare passed and Wisconsin was able to claim the pivotal doubles point.Against Northwestern on Friday, Wisconsin sported a different doubles lineup and saw its lone victory come from Michalicka and Pohlmann, as the doubles point was lost.Following the doubles in both matches, Wisconsin’s singles played consistently well, winning 9 of 12 matches on the weekend as they secured a 5-2 team victory in both contests.Wisconsin has won four of its last five matches despite going 2-3 in the doubles point. With all the extra weight placed on singles, Wisconsin is fortunate to have come away so clean.“We’ve got to work on doubles,” Baumann said. “We’re really confident in singles, but improvement in doubles is what we’ll work on a lot in practice this week. It’s always tough to come back if you lose the doubles point — it makes it so much easier when you win it.”According to Austin, the team is still looking for the best overall pairing of teammates, which might explain why Baumann and Michalicka played alongside different teammates against Northwestern. Nevertheless, Austin believes some improvements were made on Saturday after seeing Dierberger and Pohlmann produce an 8-1 stomping.“I think we played better down there with Pat and Dierberger,” Austin said. “They played a little bit together in the fall and did pretty well together, so that was good to see.”“We’re continuing to look for combinations that give us a spark and play with a lot of energy because, really, in doubles that’s the difference.”Even though singles has been there to bail out the Badgers as of late, the team has not neglected further improvements to singles play. The weekend saw all three of Wisconsin’s freshmen — Billy Bertha, Ricardo Martin and Freeman — receive an increased amount of playing time. As the Badgers now sit in the middle of the Big Ten season, the cultivation of their more inexperienced players will be vital as tournament season approaches.“Going through matches, it’s kind of an emotional rollercoaster, and so to be able to get out there and play at a high intensity and to be able to shut them down, it just really adds to your experience,” Freeman said. “For the tougher matches you can rely on that and it’ll get you through.”With the three freshmen, Wisconsin saw varying degrees of improvement. Freeman won both of his singles matches, while Martin went 1-1 and Bertha 0-2.Both Austin and Baumann noted Freeman’s significant development after his dominating performance on Saturday in which he won his singles match 6-0, 6-2.“I think Chris is playing really well right now,” Austin said. “He kind of had an up and down start… he’s kind of gotten over the hump a little bit and is starting to get some wins and confidence.”As difficult as it may be to win a tennis match without the doubles point, Michalicka is confident in his team’s play at singles. And at that, it doesn’t matter how the team wins, as long as they keep doing it.“All these guys can win any day against basically, I feel like, anybody,” he said. “It’s always hard when you lose the doubles to win (the match), but it’s not impossible for us. It’s worked out a couple times.”last_img

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