In the midst of a frantic, energetic Friday night, Lamar Remy made his presence felt by all in attendance at the Nielsen Tennis Center.
On the final point of his singles match against Penn State’s Leonard Stakhovsky, Remy unleashed a vicious serve, crashed the net and forced his opponent back with a well-placed shot into the corner. The hit left Stakhovsky with significant ground to cover and as a result, he sent his last-ditch effort lob too far, which bounced into the deuce court. Remy, along with the crowd and his teammates, screamed in excitement as he won the match and brought the Badgers within a single point.
While the match ended as a 4-2 loss for Wisconsin men’s tennis, Remy showed just how dangerous the team can be. Wisconsin displayed a side that isn’t ready to give up against a single opponent; one that believes it can defeat whoever it faces. And when the team is on top of its game, it can.
Remy battled back in the match after dropping the first set 2-6 with a dominant performance in the second, winning 6-1 to set up a third. There was back and forth action for its duration and it even looked as if Stakhovsky would hold Remy off at points, but Remy grinded and won the third set 6-4.
“[Remy] has put in the time first and foremost,” UW head coach Danny Westerman said. “He is working really hard. It really started way back in September. He adjusted the strategy [during the match] by himself, I can’t take any credit for it.
“He came out in the second set, changed his gameplan, played a way that he hasn’t played all year and was really mature. He showed a lot of poise to play that way and turn the match around.”
Adopting this attitude has propelled Remy and the team late in the season. The sophomore recently moved into the second singles position after spending most of spring on court three, and the tougher competition hasn’t phased him either.
Remy is 3-2 at second singles with his two losses coming against No. 36 Hugo Di Feo of Ohio State (6-0, 6-4) and No. 81 Jathan Malik of Michigan (6-4, 6-4). He also faced a string of ranked opponents in recent matches that dates back to his last two matches at third singles.
Remy, however, is not the only Badgers’ player who has improved significantly since the beginning of the season.
Chema Carranza is the latest to find himself moving up in the pecking order. The sophomore moved into the third singles spot for the past two matches after spending most of the season on court five.
Carranza has found himself in tough battles this season and is 3-1 in three-set matches, but is dominant for the most part. He is 14-3 this season and has won 11 of those matches in straight sets.
Carranza is just another example of the attitude so many on Wisconsin have adopted this season. The team refuses to lose — even when things aren’t looking good — they dig deep, which bodes well for Wisconsin’s future as well as its current success.
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First singles player Josef Dodridge is also a sophomore and with Remy and Carranza now comprising the second and third singles spots, the team can get its top three players experience against top competition before next season.
But Wisconsin is not, nor should it be, solely focused on the future.
The way in which Remy, Carranza and the rest of the Badgers play is as if every single point could clinch the match. They get mad at themselves for losing a point even if they’re up 40-15 in a game, especially if it’s an easier play.
Dodridge showed in his match night against Penn State’s Constant De La Basseterre — which went unfinished at 3-6, 6-3, 3-4 — that every winnable point should be had. The sophomore was visibly upset multiple times as he yelled at himself for dropped points that he felt he should have won.
That intensity is what has driven the team this season and gotten each player to the point they’re at — four ranked wins and respectable losses to five others. Like with Remy, the upped intensity has driven the whole team to get better.
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With only two regular season matches remaining, the Badgers are 14-6 overall, 4-5 Big Ten and sixth in the Big Ten. A run in the Big Ten Tournament is in the cards for Wisconsin, but it will take a decent effort.
But the attitude and intensity Remy, Carranza, Dodridge and every other player bring to each match may be enough to propel them through the postseason. It’s brought the team from 7-18 last season to 14-6 this season with two games left to play. With no signs of stopping its development, what’s to say men’s tennis can’t take yet another step.