Wisconsins men’s tennis stuns Purdue in 4-3 comeback
The Badgers’ men’s tennis team pulled off one of its greatest victories of the season with a come-from-behind 4-3 victory over No. 58 Purdue on Friday night at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium.“For these guys to be able to step up and overcome adversity was great to see,” Wisconsin head coach Greg Van Emburgh said after the victory. “This [win] should bring a lot of confidence to the guys. They should feel confident about their games again and we should be back to competing at a high level.”The win had a bigger impact on the Badgers than just putting a halt to their losing streak and continuing their dominance of Purdue (10 straight coming into Friday). This win gave the Badgers back their swagger; it gave them back their confidence.“I think this is huge [for our confidence],” senior Billy Bertha said after the win. “We’ve lost the past three Big Ten matches after winning the doubles point, so to come out and not win the doubles point while still being able to win the match really sets the tone for Indiana on Sunday.”Confidence had been something this team was lacking during its recent seven match losing streak – including six conference games. The difference between Friday’s match and those during the losing streak was the fact that this team is once again healthy and has its senior captain back on the court.“It was a lot of fun to get back out there on the court after missing a few games due to back injuries,” Bertha said. “Getting the win just made it that much better.”The Badgers (11-9, 2-6), who came into the match winning five of their past seven doubles points, lost two of three doubles matches to the Boilermakers (16-8, 4-4). Their lone doubles win came by the strong play of Bertha and Alexander Kostanov on court number one over the No. 79 ranked doubles pairing of Krisztian Krocsko and Szymon Tatarczyk, 8-5.Wisconsin’s No. 2 doubles pairing of Alexander Kokorev and Petr Satral fell 8-4 at the hands of Diego Acosta and Aaron Dujovne, which tied the score at 1-1.The Boilermakers earned the doubles point after Mark Kovacs and Pawel Poziomski defeated Jakhongir Jalalov and Oskar Wikberg, 8-6 at the No. 3 position.Sporting a record of 16-1 when winning the doubles point, the Boilermakers put themselves in a great position to win the match, especially after Tatarczyk defeated Satral 6-1, 6-3 on court one and Mateus Silva defeated Frederik Strabo 6-2, 6-2 on court six. The Badgers, however, did not give up and continued to fight on.“When the guys huddled up before singles,” Van Emburgh said, “they pointed to when we lost the doubles point against Minnesota and came back and won four singles, so it felt good that they were all jacked to play the singles.”Of course, digging themselves into a 3-0 hole wasn’t a part of that plan, but the Badgers were willing to do whatever it took to pull out the victory. “For us to come out there and to be down 3-0 to lose the doubles point, set, set three, and match point down just shows a lot of heart,” Van Emburgh said.The Badgers’ first point of the day came at the singles’ No. 2 position as Kostanov defeated Kovacs, 6-3, 6-4. Simultaneous with the conclusion of Kostanov’s match, Bertha was fighting off a team match-point for the Boilermakers and he came up with an ace to keep the Badgers’ hopes alive.“I didn’t know that we were down until my dad told me that I better not lose this match [because then] the team will lose,” Bertha said. “So I kind of turned it on a little bit.”Meanwhile, Jalalov made the Badgers’ far-fetched dreams a reality when he cut the lead 3-2 with a 7-6, 6-4 victory over Krocsko at the No. 6 slot. Bertha won a tight second set 7-6 (8-6) before finishing off Poziomski in the third set for a final line of 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 6-3.Suddenly, the senior leader had tied the match at 3-3 and all the Badgers needed to complete the comeback was for a freshman to pull off the biggest victory of his young career.“When Billy got the break in the third I knew it was up to me, Wikberg said. “[When my teammates came to my court to support me], I just wanted to win even more; I wanted to clinch it.”After dropping the first set to Dujovne, 7-6 (7-3), Wikberg rallied and won the final two sets 6-3, 6-1 to clinch it for the Badgers.“He’s one of the hardest workers on the team,” Bertha said of the freshman. “For him to get that win and to see him play better than he has lately – not even in terms of the score but just his play – speaks volumes in the way he’s preparing himself and the way he’s closing out.”The Badgers, armed with newly found confidence, play host to No. 56 Indiana on Sunday with just three B1G matches remaining on their schedule.