After an up-and-down start to the year, the University of Wisconsin men’s tennis team is starting to find its feet heading into the business end of the season.
Both players and head coach Danny Westerman described their start to the season as “slow” but in recent weeks, the team has really hit its stride, gaining a perfect five wins from five outings in March.
Westerman said their recent success was down to a consistent team effort with a focus on doing the basics right.
“I thought our energy, our enthusiasm and our competitiveness was a step stronger and in very close matches those are things we can control, and we did a really good job of that,” Westerman said. “I think we’re playing our best tennis of the year, so our guys are really excited to keep playing every weekend.”
Though their win streak came to an end at the hands of number two ranked Ohio State last weekend — their first loss on home court this season — the team is still confident.
They will look to continue their fine run of form in April as they finish off Big Ten play and head towards the Big Ten Tournament at the end of the month.
The Badgers currently sit fifth on the Big Ten ladder, with a record of 11 wins and seven losses. This is a position they will look to improve on, as there is still plenty of tennis to be played with six remaining Big Ten Conference matches left on their schedule.
These six matches include matches against No. 8 Illinois and No. 11 Michigan. Both teams sit above them in the Big Ten standings.
But the team is not looking too far ahead and is focusing on every match as it comes. Sophomore Daniel Soyfer said “every match is just as important from here on.”
Another factor that has played a major role in the Badgers recent success has been the quality of their doubles play — having picked up the doubles point in 13 of their 16 matches this year.
Having success in the doubles doesn’t just come by chance either. Westerman said they spend more than their fair share of time practicing the doubles’ discipline.
“It’s a daily focus of ours, we practice doubles a great deal, in terms of timing we do it for much more than just the one point of a dual match because we know how critical that first point is,” Westerman said.
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Leading the charge in doubles play are seniors Chema Carranza and Josef Dodridge. Holding an 8-0 record, they are ranked number two in the nation and have yet to lose a doubles match this spring.
Following close behind is the pairing of junior Osgar O’Hoisin and sophomore Daniel Soyfer, who have a record of 10–3 playing together this season. Their impressive doubles play has seen them make their way into the ITA national rankings at No. 89.
Soyfer described his and O’Hoisin’s entry into the rankings as “a great feeling” and added, “we have beaten a couple of ranked teams along the way so it felt great to finally make it to the rankings.”
With these pairs in lead, the Badgers’ impressive showings in doubles play are no accident.
Westerman believes the team’s play in doubles is a representation of the culture they have built.
“We pride ourselves on playing as a unit, playing as a team and doubles is kind of an obvious reflection of our team culture.”
With matches every weekend and the Big Ten Tournament approaching, the team needs to ensure they stay fresh and healthy.
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To help achieve this, Westerman said they will keep their typical Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday practices but perhaps slightly tone down the intensity and duration. But don’t be mistaken — this doesn’t mean the team will be slacking off.
“We’re going to keep pushing them,” Westerman said. “Our guys are pretty motivated to practice so it’s pretty easy to get them going.”