After a bittersweet weekend in Michigan, the Wisconsin men’s tennis team returns to Madison to prepare for two Big Ten matches on its home court.
The Badgers hope to recapture some momentum as they host Big Ten rivals Purdue and Indiana this weekend.
Nearly a year ago, Wisconsin was coming off a big win against Northwestern and continued the streak by beating Purdue, 5-2. However, things have changed since the Badgers last saw the Boilermakers.
Last year, Wisconsin was 4-2 in Big Ten matches when it faced Purdue. This year, the Badgers’ Big Ten record is 2-2. In 2010, senior Marek Michalicka was ranked No. 15 with his partner Moritz Baumann, who now serves as student assistant coach.
This season, Billy Bertha replaces Baumann as Michalicka’s partner. During the 2009-2010 season, Wisconsin often struggled to get doubles points. This season, however, the ranked duo of Michalicka and Bertha is adding improvement.
As a duo, Michalicka and Bertha are ranked No. 78 and their chemistry is undeniable. Bertha joked about keeping Michalicka in line and admits to meshing well with him.
Against No. 22 Michigan Saturday, the Badgers fell early as the Wolverines won two of three doubles matches and the No. 6 singles match. Michigan proceeded to win the Nos. 2, 3 and 5 to clinch the win.
Although Wisconsin dropped the match, Michalicka showed his veteran experience in coming behind in his singles match and winning seven consecutive points to beat Evan King.
“I got a little lucky there at the end, but I’m definitely more confident, so hopefully that helps this weekend,” Michalicka said.
Sunday, Wisconsin faced No. 53 Michigan State and the tables turned. Michalicka and Bertha had the No. 1 spot and claimed the doubles point along with the duo of Rod Carey and Fredrik Ask.
When the Spartans fought back, the Badgers picked up some of their senior captain’s toughness from the day before and battled back. Michalicka, Bertha and Ask claimed the final three match victories.
Like Wisconsin’s Michalicka and Bertha, Indiana also has a successful duo in Santiago Gruter and Jeremy Langer. The pair is currently on a 12-match winning streak at No. 1 and will prove to be a tough opponent for Wisconsin.
Last season, Indiana was Wisconsin’s first Big Ten win. The Badgers were coming off of a tough one-point loss to Illinois and played with raw emotion against Indiana. This year, Wisconsin looks forward to channeling that same emotion and playing with the same decisiveness as last year against this No. 60th-ranked Purdue team. Indiana’s Josh MacTaggert has been leading the Hoosiers to victory and was unbeaten in the month of March. MacTaggert and the 27th-ranked Hoosiers are coming into their match against Wisconsin with momentum after beating both Big Ten opponents (Illinois and Iowa) this past week.
The Badgers lead the all time series against Purdue 55-18, but trail Indiana 42-26.
Still, the Badgers are looking forward to hosting a challenging match.
“We’ve been beating them the last couple years, if I can remember correctly, so hopefully we can win again even though they are ranked higher,” Michalicka said. “We have a pretty good chance to beat them.”