The Wisconsin tennis program found itself in familiar territory this past weekend at the Big Ten tennis tournaments.
For the fifth straight season, both the men’s and women’s teams fell in the first round of the tournament, a fate that has prolonged the development of a program in desperate need of a turnaround.
On the men’s side, the ninth-seeded Badgers dropped all points to the eighth-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes, falling 4-0 without winning a single matchup.
Four matches went unfinished en route to Iowa’s victory, including UW freshman Josef Dodridge’s, who had garnered second-team all-Big Ten honors earlier in the week.
Dodridge, the Badgers’ No. 1 singles and doubles player, fell 2-6 in the first set of his singles match against Hawkeye senior Matt Hagan. Hagan came in after a strong regular season, and was named first-team all-Big Ten this week.
In the second set, however, Dodrige came back to lead 4-2, but his match concluded early due to the “clinch rule,” meaning Iowa had already clinched the team win. The match ended as a did not finish and squandered the Badgers’ chance to win any matchup.
Jakhongir Jalalov dropped a highly contested match at the second singles spot in straight sets, 3-6, 4-6, to the highly touted Iowa freshman Lefteris Theodorou. Theodorou, a native of Greece, climbed the ITF rankings earlier in October when he ranked No. 134 in world juniors.
Dodridge’s doubles partner and fellow freshman Jose Carranza also dropped a close singles match in straight sets, falling 4-6, 4-6. With these three matches ending in losses for Wisconsin, their fate was sealed, and they exited the tournament without making much of a splash. Dodridge and Carranza also lost 6-8 in the No. 1 doubles pairing.
The match capped a disappointing season for Wisconsin, finishing with a record of 7-18 overall. With five freshmen, though, the men’s program will have the chance to develop a strong core over the next three years, with chances for better showings in the coming seasons.
Purdue halts women’s tennis season
The women’s team fared better than the men’s squad, but still found itself with an unfortunately similar result.
The Wisconsin women fell 4-2 to No. 38 Purdue, dropping a costly doubles point and losing two singles matches in third-set tiebreakers, which ultimately made the difference.
Tenth-seeded Wisconsin lost both the first and third doubles matchups by scores of 3-8, winning only the second matchup 8-3. In a match that ended 4-2 in favor of seventh-seeded Purdue, the lost doubles point proved to be extremely costly.
The Badgers’ top singles player Lauren Chypyha registered a DNF in her singles match, which lasted three grueling sets. After taking the first set by a score of 6-4, Chypyha dropped the second set 5-7, losing her chance to finish off Purdue’s Daniela Vidal. By way of the second set win, Vidal forced a third set tie breaker which was halted when Purdue won match point, enforcing the clinch rule. Vidal led 1-0 in the third set at the time of its conclusion.
Second and third singles also went to third sets in which Wisconsin fell flat.
Maria Avgerinos, Wisconsin’s No. 2 singles player, clawed her way back against Tess Bernard-Feigenbaum in the second set of their matchup. After dropping the first set 3-6, Avgerinos bounced back to win the second set 6-4. But with the matchup reaching a crucial point for the Badgers, she couldn’t win a much-needed third set to take the matchup, falling 0-6 instead.
Wisconsin freshman Ekaterina Stepanova also suffered a similar fate after winning the first set of her match, 6-4. She then lost the second set 4-6 and the tie-breaking third set 2-6, effectively ending the match as Purdue gained the last point it needed to win the match.
With only three wins out of the nine matchups, it was not the showing Wisconsin was looking for to end its season. The Badgers finished out the year at 10-12 and went 4-7 in conference play. Yet with two freshmen, no seniors and two incoming freshmen, the Badgers have plenty of room and time to grow for next year and beyond.