Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


It takes two: Ask, Bertha, finding doubles success

At this early stage, the 2012 season has been less than memorable for the Wisconsin men’s tennis team. A losing record and zero wins away from home rarely round out the recipe for success.

When stacked against quality competition, the Badgers have typically faltered, but the doubles team of sophomore Fredrik Ask and junior Billy Bertha has endured as the exception to that rule.

Through only seven matches of a 23-match season, the Badgers’ No. 1 slated duo has piled together a record of 6-1, recording just their first loss this past weekend at Minnesota.


Before falling to No. 32 Rok Bonin and Julian Dehn, 8-5, Ask and Bertha had produced six straight victories; all the while Ask was recovering from three weeks worth of sickness.

What is likely even more impressive is their ability to translate success while owning greatly contrasting profiles.

Ask weighs in at 165 pounds and stands 6 feet tall. Bertha, on the other hand, stretches to 6 feet 5 inches and nearly outweighs Ask by 30 pounds.

The differences do not end with their physical frames, though. Ask is a sophomore from Oslo, Norway, whereas Bertha is a junior from Whitefish Bay, Wis., placing nearly 4,000 miles between their hometowns.

One difference that undoubtedly works in their favor stems from each of their biggest tennis assets, coincidentally related to their physique.

“We have different strengths and they match up good together,” Ask said. “[Billy] serves big and has power, and I have a good feel and good eyes for the game.”

In addition to playing styles, Ask is left-handed, which complements Bertha, who is right-handed.

Despite these distinctions, they maintain an important similarity in the fact that they consistently win doubles matches. For head coach Greg Van Emburgh, this is all that matters.

“We’re just looking for the best team that really communicates well together and gels well,” Van Emburgh said. “They’ve seemed to be able to get off to a strong start, so we’ve ended up keeping them together.”

Though Van Emburgh noted that the arrangement of Ask and Bertha as a doubles team can change “like the wind,” if they keep winning, they will definitely stay together. Thus far, there are no signs of their winning ways being halted.

In just the past two weeks, the twosome has faced its highest competition, matched against multiple teams in the top 60 doubles rankings. 

In consecutive days, Ask and Bertha triumphed over Clemson’s top doubles team, ranked 57th nationally, as well as Georgia Tech, ranked No. 2 in the nation. Succeeding over some of the best competition across the NCAA has brought the pair even closer as teammates.

“Playing with Fred for the first time, we had only played a couple matches, so we weren’t sure where our level of play was,” Bertha said. “But after we beat Clemson we felt like we were meshing pretty well, and once we beat Georgia Tech we realized what level we were at, so it felt good.”

Though currently unranked nationally, it may be only a matter of time before the team of Ask and Bertha has a number tagged to it. Two top 60 victories speak for themselves as opportunities are abounding within the remaining Big Ten schedule.

The conference lays claim to 12 of those top 60 teams, so the top Badger duo will certainly be tested. Van Emburgh just hopes his players can keep a mental edge regardless of any impending national recognition.

“I hope they can continue to play loose,” Van Emburgh said. “Obviously when you are not in the rankings you tend to play a little looser, and continue to have some success.”

In the rankings is where Ask and Bertha want to be, however, because competing in the NCAA doubles tournament is a shared goal between the two.

Only 32 doubles teams are selected to battle within the Big Ten against great teams such as Ohio State, Michigan, and Illinois. Wisconsin will likely be searching for one of the even fewer at-large bids.

Both players agreed they are capable of advancing to the tournament.

“We dropped that one in Minnesota,” Bertha said. “But going perfect in the Big Ten the rest of the way is a good goal. After that you try to make the NCAA tournament, and maybe see if we can become All-Americans.”

With an abundance of aspirations, only time will tell for the success of Ask and Bertha as doubles teammates.

As far as the Badgers’ number one squad goes, the phrase runs true that opposites attract. These two opposites push the old adage aside, however, and attract success instead.

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