Despite battling hard, the University of Wisconsin men’s tennis team (7-6) went 0-3 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Championship, held Feb. 14 to 17 at Madison’s own Nielsen Tennis Stadium.
Fifteen of the nation’s best teams converged on Nielsen Tennis Stadium for the Championship. It was the first time that Madison had hosted the ITA National Championship since 1979, and the tournament drew casual and avid fans alike.
UW VS OSU, Feb. 4
The Badger’s first match was against No. 1 The Ohio State University. Coming off a 6–1 loss to the University of Southern California, the Badger’s faced another tough opponent in OSU, the 2019 ITA National Champions. Their top player, John McNally — ranked No. 23 for three consecutive weeks last year — would present an especially difficult challenge.
Though their fans made the most of their home-court advantage, filling Nielsen with cheers and chants, the Badgers lost the doubles point. OSU’s duo of McNally and Robert Cash defeated the Badger duo of Chase Colton and Jared Pratt, 6–2.
OSU’s James Trotter and Justin Boulais also bested Wisconsin’s Gabriel Huber and Robin Parts, 6–1.
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For singles, Colton was faced with the task of taking on McNally. Colton gave them a good show, beating McNally in the first game before McNally’s powerful serve set in. McNally won the next five games, but on game six Colton scraped together enough grit and craftiness to beat McNally, forcing the set to 2–5. In the end, McNally barely got the best of Colton in a final rally to win 6–2.
McNally and Colton moved on to their second set. Colton’s serve began giving McNally trouble, and Colton exploited it, attacking the net and sniping forehands wherever McNally wasn’t. McNally was up 5–4 when OSU took the fourth singles point, ending the match by default.
OSU’s Cannon Kingsley, Boulais and Trotter defeated Wisconsin’s Huber, Pratt and Lenard Soha, respectively, to take the match 4–0.
UW vs Baylor, Feb. 15:
The Badgers’ second match was up against No. 8 Baylor University.
Baylor won the doubles point with Sven Lah and Constantin Frantzen defeating the Badger’s Colton and Pratt 6–3. Finn Bass and Adrian Boitan beat Robert Krill and Martim Vilela 6–3.
The Badgers didn’t get a chance to win a singles point before Baylor won three to end the match, 4–0. Baylor’s Lah, Alex Garcia and Frantzen defeated Wisconsin’s Huber, Krill and Vilela, respectively.
Jared Pratt came the closest to giving the Badgers a point, having thrashed Baylor’s Boitan 6–2 in the first set before the match ended.
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UW vs South Carolina, Feb. 16:
The Badgers came out firing on all cylinders Sunday night, with Vilela and Krill quickly dispatching South Carolina’s Paul Jubb and Beau Pelletier 6–4 during doubles play. Colton and Pratt faced Raphael Lambling and Daniel Rodrigues, and battled back from being down 5–6 to win a dramatic tiebreaker set, 7–6.
Things continued to look good for the Badgers, with Soha, Pratt and Krill all winning their first sets in singles play.
Soha, who faced Phillip Jordan, gorged on his opponent’s weak returns. He sent heavy forehands from one side of the court to the other, sliced backhands that brought Jordan to his knees and served so hard you could hear the ball whistle through the air. Soha won the first set 7–5.
On the court next to Soha, Pratt was having a field day with USC’s Rodrigues. He disrupted Rodrigues’ flow with a cocktail of short balls, heavy groundstrokes and killer serves. Whenever Rodrigues faltered, Pratt attacked. Pratt took the first set 6–3.
Meanwhile, Krill was working his magic on Jake Beasley, using his technique of returning everything to win the first set 6–3.
Unfortunately, Carolina responded.
USC’s first point came from Jubbs, who dispatched Colton 6–1, 6–0. On the neighboring court, Lambling defeated Huber 6–3, 6–4.
Then Rodrigues mounted a comeback against Pratt, winning the next two sets. USC’s Thomas Brown defeated Parts 6–2, 6–7, 6–2 to propel the Gamecocks to a 4–1 victory.
The Badger have three weeks before their next match, when they take on Wright State March 6.