Nov. 22, 2011
Fall season in review
The Wisconsin men's tennis team had eight different players compete in five tournaments during the 2011 fall season including one freshman, one transfer and six returning players.
During the fall season the Badgers posted an 82-67 (.550) record in both singles and doubles, but doubles is where the Badgers excelled.
Led by upperclassmen Billy Bertha and Alexander Kostanov, the Badgers recorded a combined doubles record of 50-26 (.658). Bertha and Kostanov posted a 7-3 fall record together largely due to their ability to gel and develop chemistry so early in the fall season.
“We’re both juniors and have experience playing college tennis,” Kostanov said. “We both have good serves and volleys as well. I am sure our doubles will be in optimal shape by January.”
Sophomore Alex Robles also played a large role in the strong record by posting a 5-2 mark with redshirt sophomore Alexander Teppert and a 4-1 record with fellow sophomore Fredrik Ask.
“In general I am playing a lot better than I did last season because I am used to playing indoors now,” Robles said. “Before coming to Wisconsin I had only lived in places where the most common surface was clay and, for someone that has never played indoors before, it takes some time getting used to.
I’ve also worked pretty hard during the offseason to get into good physical shape and that just contributes to my improvement. Lastly, I have improved my returns a lot, and that is something that definitely contributed to the improvement in my results.”
The Badgers will look to carry their doubles success into the spring season when the doubles point becomes crucial in dual matches because it is the first point awarded and sets the tone for the rest of the match.
“We’ve tried to spend some time on doubles in practice and make sure the guys are really taking it to heart because the doubles point means so much in the spring matches and conference matches,” head coach Greg Van Emburgh said. “I think spending time on it and having the right pairings, right now I don’t even know if we are sure where we want to be with our teams, so I consider doubles still a work in progress.”
Last spring the Badgers went 10-3 in dual matches when winning the doubles point.
In singles this fall, the Badgers recorded a combined 39-37 (.513) record. Badger newcomers Kostanov and freshman Jack Larsen led the team with six fall wins by recording a 6-3 and 6-6 record, respectively setting the pace for the rest of the team.
“My first fall season I thought went really well,” Larsen said. “I feel like it could have gone better so I am still looking to keep improving in my game. Working hard on and off the court has helped my game a lot. I feel that I am in better shape and because of that I have more confidence in my game.”
Other Badgers who had a successful fall singles campaigns were Ask (5-5), Bertha (4-4) and Teppert who recorded four wins.
Fall Tournament Results
The Badgers opened the fall season at the Milwaukee Tennis Classic, Sept. 16-18. Bertha went undefeated over the weekend going 3-0 in singles, 3-0 in doubles with Kostanov and was named the singles and doubles champion.
Bertha and Kostanov then went on to compete in the ITA All-America qualifying draw in Tulsa, Okla. The two went 1-1 in the doubles tournament earning a victory over Temple’s Filip Rams and Kacper Rams, 8-3.
At the ITA Midwest Regionals Bertha and Kostanov again had an impressive showing, reaching the round of 16 by gaining wins over Valparaiso’s Chris Baum and Adam Whitmer and Illinois’s Bruno Abdelnour and Ross Guigon.
At the Wildcat Invitational in Evanston, Ill., both of the Badgers doubles teams reached the semifinals. Robles and Teppert defeated Illinois State’s Muddappa Appanervanda and Will Peter then beat Western Michigan’s Nadin Indre and Aaron Wong to advance to the semis. Larsen and redshirt freshman Austin Akers defeated Jonathan Schwerin and Logon Collins of Marquette in the round of 16 and then Michael Sicora and Eric Frueh of Minnesota in the quarterfinals to earn their semifinal berth.
The Badgers closed their fall season at the Big Ten Singles/Doubles Championships in Iowa City, Iowa. Kostanov and Larsen had the best singles showing for Wisconsin by reaching the round of 16. In doubles, Robles and Teppert put together another strong tournament result by putting together three wins to reach the finals of the Flight B bracket.
2011-12 Roster breakdown
With only two upperclassmen and eight underclassmen the Badgers are bound to have some growing pains, but expectations remain high for a program looking to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing it last season following four consecutive trips.
“Our goals as a team are to get back into the top 25 nationally and finish as one of the top teams in the Big Ten,” team captain Billy Bertha said. “We have a lot of talent on this team, and I think everyone realizes that our real season starts in the spring. If everyone plays up to their potential we can have a very good year.”
The team’s two upperclassmen, Bertha and Kostanov, are expected to step up and fill the leadership and talent void left by Marek Michalicka’s graduation this past May.
Sophomores Ask, Robles, Teppert, Rod Carey and Petr Satral will make up the core of this 2011-2012 team. Ask, Carey and Satral all saw considerable playing time last season, while Robles and Teppert will be asked to play a larger role in the lineup this season.
The Badgers also have also added one redshirt freshman, Austin Akers and two true freshmen in Larsen and Quinton Vega.
Bertha named captain
Bertha was chosen as the Badgers' captain prior to the start of the season. The junior is the most experienced player on the team, and over his career he has compiled a 39-37 singles record and a 44-21 doubles record. The Whitefish Bay native is an ITA Scholar Athlete and the only remaining member of the team that reached the NCAA Sweet Sixteen in 2010.
“We have a pretty young team this year, with myself and Alex Kostanov being the oldest two players as juniors,” Bertha said. “As an upperclassmen and team captain, it is important to keep working hard on and off the court to set a good example for my teammates and help keep things in perspective for some of the younger guys who are getting their first taste of college tennis.
We have a very good opportunity this year to get this program back to what it was a couple of years ago, and I think the whole team has been working really hard this fall in the gym and on the court to get ready for the spring season.”
In the spring Wisconsin will host 12 home matches at the Nielsen Tennis Stadium. The Badgers will compete against Butler, Western Illinois, Marquette, Green Bay, Northern Illinois, UW-Whitewater, and UIC as a part of their non-conference schedule. Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Iowa make up Wisconsin’s home Big Ten schedule.
The Badgers open the season with a doubleheader at home then go on the road for a difficult four-match road stretch. Wisconsin visits Notre Dame (2/10), Clemson (2/18) and Georgia Tech (2/19) before ending the road trip at Big Ten rival Minnesota (2/25).
“Those are all tough teams, all of them are within the top 30 in the country,” Van Emburgh said. “You want to always have a strong strength of schedule, and I think that is what we are accomplishing there. Those teams will be coming back as well to the Nielsen Tennis Center. We are looking forward to those matches, and I think it will be a good test and challenge for the guys.”
The Big Ten Tournament is set for April 26-29 in Evanston, Ill., at the Combe Tennis Center.
Wisconsin opens its spring season on Jan. 28, 2012 with a doubleheader against Butler at 11 a.m., and Western Illinois at 4 p.m., at Nielsen Tennis Stadium.