Men’s tennis begins season with 2-1 opening-weekend record
Coming off its sixth straight appearance in the NCAA Division III semifinals, the No. 4 Washington University men’s tennis had high expectations as it opened its 2014 season. The Bears did not disappoint as they left their first three matches with a 2-1 record.
Against No. 18 Gustavus Adolphus College, the Bears started off the season strong, sweeping and dominating in all three of their doubles matches. In first-flight doubles, junior Ross Putterman and freshman Jeremy Bush won 8-5, freshman John Carswell and senior Max Franklin won the second flight 8-3, and sophomore Tyler Kratky and senior Jeffrey Hirsch took the third flight 8-2. According to Kratky, the team’s hard work at practice for the past three weeks paid off because everyone felt comfortable and in sync with their partners.
“Everyone was focused and determined to make an impact,” Kratky said. “I think we were all pretty impressed with the way we came out and fought. I think it solidified the potential that we believed in ourselves.”
Despite the early success, the Red and Green struggled to carry over that success in singles, winning only three of the six matches. Facing Gustavus’ best tennis player for second time in his college career, Putterman was unable to establish his aggressiveness and frequently missed his target, losing 6-3 and 6-4 at first flight.
“I played a little tight, and we actually mirror each other in a lot of ways,” Putterman said. “Both of us have big forehands, and we take chances on the turn game. He took more chances than me and got more winners. It was a good match, but I didn’t play as well as I should have.”
Carswell, ranked no. 42 in the nation, impressed his teammates by closing a tight singles match in a victory at the third flight with scores of 6-4 in both sets.
“Our young guys really played hard, and I think they have a lot of potential,” Kratky said. “I thought John [Carswell] had outstanding sets for his first outing at a freshman. I think we were all very pleased with the way he performed.
With senior Tim Noack and Kratky adding two more wins, the Bears survived their first test with a 6-3 team win. Wash. U. found itself in a different situation against no. 24 University of Wisconsin-Whitewater on Sunday, even though its results ended similarly with a 6-3 win. The Bears started off slowly in doubles, losing two of their three matches. According to Putterman, who paired up with Bush to win the only doubles match in the first flight, the Bears missed on a lot of scoring opportunities, of which Whitewater took advantage.
“We came out sluggish, we couldn’t make a lot of close shots and we just didn’t play with enough intensity,” Putterman said. “But what matters is that we regrouped afterward and tried to turn things around to squeeze out a win.”
That turnaround proved to be vital in singles play as the Bears dominated, taking home five of their six matches. Putterman, who faced a former Division I player at the first flight, had little trouble winning the first set but experienced some hiccups in the second en route to a 6-1, 6-4 victory.
“I felt a lot looser during singles and more relaxed, and I think the team, in general, felt that way as well,” Putterman said. “I played fearlessly and went for my shots more. I focused on my serves and wasn’t fazed when things were getting close at the end.”
Carswell took care of business once again at the third flight, winning 6-4 for both sets, while freshman Collier Bouchillon won his first singles match at the sixth flight, scoring 6-1 and 6-0 set victories. Kratky saw improvements in both freshmen’s confidence, which helped their play on the court.
“I think it’s hard transitioning to a college atmosphere, but I think our freshmen have been exceptional,” Kratky said. “Obviously we all have a lot to improve on, but I think the freshmen were less nervous in their second round.”
The Bears had one more match on Sunday afternoon against Division I University of Wisconsin-Green Bay. While fatigue may have played a factor in the Red and Green’s 4-0 loss, Wash. U. was also outmatched in skill and couldn’t keep up with Green Bay’s aggressiveness. Despite the loss, Putterman believed it was a good to see how they matched up against one of the best.
“We knew they were going to be really good, so we really had nothing to lose. I think the match just showed how much work we need to do,” Putterman said. “We just need to be in the right mindset and play to win every match.”