Jan. 22, 2010
EVANSTON, Ill. -- After falling to a 1-3 deficit midway through singles, Northwestern stormed back to upset the No. 18 Alabama Crimson Tide Friday evening at Combe Tennis Center. Freshman Mark Schanerman (N. Miami Beach, Fla./Krop) saved three match points at No. 6 singles to keep the 'Cats alive and then Andrew McCarthy (Cincinnati, Ohio/Indian Hill) and Spencer Wolf (Coral Springs, Fla./Laurel Springs) completed the comeback by winning three-setters at No. 2 and No. 5, respectively.
This four-hour marathon win marks the Wildcats' biggest upset under third-year head coach Arvid Swan, and just the second time that his team has won a dual after losing the doubles point. The last was against Iowa on Northwestern's 2009 Senior Day last April.
Friday's match came down to a few points as both teams played hard and showed that contributions come from every spot in the lineup. Northwestern's four points came from the No. 1, No. 2, No. 5 and No. 6 singes positions; the team improves to 3-0 on the season.
Up 3-1 in the dual, Alabama had multiple chances to close it out when Ian Chadwell held three match points against Schanerman at No. 6 singles. After dropping a lackluster first set, the freshman Wildcat was down 3-6 in the second set tiebreak in a must-win situation. Behind tremendous crowd support, Schanerman showed his tenacity, winning four points in a row and six of the next seven to pull out the tiebreak, 9-7, thanks to a Chadwell that forehand sailed wide.
In the third set, Schanerman took control of the match and quickly took an insurmountable 5-0 lead. Chadwell managed to save a match point and keep the match going, but the freshman 'Cat took the set, 6-1, after the Tide freshman dumped a backhand volley into the net.
With two matches left on the court at No. 2 and No. 4 singles, and the upset clearly possible, fans alternated between the courts as cries of support for McCarthy and Wolf rung out throughout Combe Tennis Center. Both matches came down to three sets and finished within minutes of each other.
At No. 5 singles, Wolf took on Alabama senior Houssam Yassine. Yassine took an early break in the fourth game and served for the set, up 5-2, but Wolf broke back by with a backhand down the line by controlling the point from the baseline. The set then went into an extremely close tiebreak, which Wolf pulled out thanks to a beautiful set point. After being pulled off the court by a Yassine forehand out wide, the Wildcat had to sprint forward to catch up with a short volley and hit a passing shot winner down the line for the set.
Yassine bounced back and took the second frame, 6-1, but Wolf quickly responded to take a 5-2 lead in the third set. Serving for the match, the freshman showed his nerves and was broken by the Crimson Tide senior. But Wolf got his nerves under control in his next service game, setting up match point with a backhand volley and then tying the dual for the Wildcats thanks to a Yassine lob that landed just behind the baseline.
Minutes later, the crowd erupted and the players rushed on court to celebrate the upset as the 'Cats won the dual thanks to an Andrew McCarthy win at No. 2 singles. McCarthy defeated Alabama's Michael Thompson, ranked No. 123 in the nation, in the fourth three-setter of the evening.
The first set started off close, with neither player able to break until the fifth game. McCarthy took a 5-2 lead and was broken on his first attempted to serve out the set, but held in his second chance and won it, 6-4.
After an injury timeout for Thompson, who skidded and fell on the court several times in the first set when trying to catch up to shots, the second set began in a fashion similar to the first. The players exchanged breaks twice and the set ended in a tiebreak, which the Tide junior managed to win, 7-4.
In the third set, with the match hanging in the balance as No. 5 singles was leaning Northwestern's way, McCarthy broke in the sixth game to take a 4-2 lead thanks to a backhand passing shot that Thompson couldn't handle. During McCarthy's next service hold, Thompson missed a backhand and threw his racket in frustration. Serving down 2-5, the Tide sophomore saved two match points, but a long rally ended in a backhand dropping just long and a dual victory for Northwestern.
The Wildcats started the match with an early deficit after falling at both No. 1 and No. 3 doubles in very close matches to drop the doubles point.
The match at No. 2 doubles between NU's Alex Sanborn (Houston, Texas/Kinkaid) and Joshua Graves (Milwaukee, Wis./Nicolet) and the Tide's Ricky Doverspike and Ian Chadwell was the first off the courts. The two tandems exchanged breaks early before NU broke twice more for a 6-2 advantage that they would maintain for the 8-4 victory.
The Tide evened the doubles point thanks to a Saketh Myneni and Michael Davis win over NU's McCarthy and Tobias Reitz (Reinbeck, Germany/Sachsenwaldschule Reinbeck). The 'Cats fell down an early break, which the Alabama tandem managed to hold onto until they were serving for the match. McCarthy broke with a return winner to even the match at 7-all, but then the 'Cats dropped the tiebreak, 7-2.
The deciding match was at No. 3 doubles between NU's Wolf and Sidarth Balaji (Fairfax, Va./Fairfax) and Alabama's Jarryd Botha and Michael Thompson. The teams exchanged breaks three times in the match, but the Alabama tandem escaped with the final break to win 9-7 and take the lead into singles.
It was an uphill battle for the 'Cats in singles, where Graves took on the Tide's Saketh Myneni, ranked No. 62 in the nation, at No. 1 singles. Myneni broke in the first game and took an early lead, but the Wildcat sophomore converted on a double break point chance to even the first set at 3-all. The players managed to hold serve the rest of the set to send it to a tiebreak, which Graves won, 7-3.
In the second set, Graves and Myneni exchanged breaks in the first two games before the Wildcat broke again in the fifth game. Graves then took the next three games for a 6-2 set win that tied the dual at 1-all.
Alabama retook the lead thanks to a Ricky Doverspike victory over Sidarth Balaji at the No. 3 singles spot. The Alabama sophomore took the close first set, 7-5, before Balaji bounced back to win the second, 6-4. At one point midway through the set, Doverspike showed his frustration by hitting a ball into the wall. He rebounded in the third, taking an early break and never letting go for a 6-3 win.
The Crimson Tide took a 3-1 lead thanks to a Jarryd Botha win at No. 4 singles over Alex Sanborn. In the first set, Sanborn was up 5-2 and failed to convert several match points as Botha held tough and fought to a 7-5 set win.
The second set was even closer as the two players exchanged breaks multiple times. Sanborn saved a match point while serving down 4-5, and forced an eventual tiebreak. He saved another three match points in the tiebreak, reminiscent of Schanerman's earlier tiebreak, but Botha managed to squeak out the victory on his fifth match point.
Next up for the 'Cats is William & Mary, who comes to Combe Tennis Center Sunday morning. Play is set to begin at 10 a.m.
Northwestern 4, Alabama 3
1. Joshua Graves (NU) def. #62 Myneni, Saketh (UA) 7-6 (7-3), 6-2
2. Andrew McCarthy (NU) def. #123 Thompson, Michael (UA) 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 6-2
3. Doverspike, Ricky (UA) def. Sidarth Balaji (NU) 7-5, 4-6, 6-3
4. Botha, Jarryd (UA) def. Alex Sanborn (NU) 7-5, 7-6 (8-6)
5. Spencer Wolf (NU) def. Yassine, Houssam (UA) 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 6-4
6. Mark Schanerman (NU) def. Chadwell, Ian (UA) 2-6, 7-6 (9-7), 6-1
1. Davis, Michael/Myneni, Saketh (UA) def. Tobias Reitz/Andrew McCarthy (NU) 9-8 (7-2)
2. Alex Sanborn/Joshua Graves (NU) def. Doverspike, Ricky/Chadwell, Ian (UA) 8-4
3. Thompson, Michael/Botha, Jarryd (UA) def. Spencer Wolf/Sidarth Balaji (NU) 9-7
Order of finish: Doubles (2,1,3); Singles (1,3,4,6,5,2)