Wisconsin men’s tennis is 6-0 this season and off to its best start since 1990. The No. 56-ranked team has already bested quality opponents, such as No. 23 Minnesota and No. 34 Princeton, but will face an even bigger test this Friday against No. 3 TCU (6-2).
The Horned Frogs have dominated opponents in recent weeks, beating five ranked foes and losing to only No. 1 Virginia and No. 24 California. The team is led by four underclassmen ranked within the top 100 singles players in the country, most notably Cameron Norrie, the No. 2 singles player in the country and a New Zealand native.
Norrie was named Big 12 player of the week Feb. 17 and his 10-4 overall record includes wins over eight ranked opponents, capped by a 6-1, 6-3 victory against then-No. 3 singles player in the country, California’s Andre Goransson. The sophomore carried TCU to the semifinals of the ITA National Indoor Tournament two weeks ago and won his match against No. 27 Ryan Shane in a 4-1 loss to the No. 1 overall team Virginia.
Norrie has taken the first singles position for most of TCU’s matches this spring, so look to him to face Wisconsin’s Josef Dodridge, a fellow sophomore, in the first singles match.
Dodridge, though unranked, is in the midst of a productive season of his own. He is 5-1 in the first singles position this spring, a significant improvement over his 6-6 record last spring.
While he hasn’t faced an opponent of Norris’s caliber, the match will help prepare him for a tough conference schedule against any of the other 10 Big Ten players currently ranked in the top 100 of collegiate players.
UW head coach Danny Westerman believes Dodridge has much more room to grow, so tough matches such as this weekend’s can only help reach that potential.
“Joe had a fantastic freshman year, and I think he’s really only scratching the surface,” Westerman said. “He might be the fastest guy in the Big Ten, and he’s one of our most competitive players.”
Senior Alexander Kokorev is the only Badger to defeat a ranked opponent this season — No. 93 Alexander Day of Princeton — let alone face an opponent of the sort. Despite lacking experience against the nation’s top players as a whole, Wisconsin is anticipating the challenge, which will come at home this Friday night at 7 p.m. at the Nielsen Tennis Center.
Win or lose, Wisconsin will take the experience as a chance to improve and build on an already promising season.