Singles prowess leads Gophers

by Kent Erdahl

The dual between Minnesota’s men’s tennis team and Purdue at the Baseline Tennis Center on Sunday can be summed up with one game point.

During the No. 1 singles match, Purdue’s Paul Rose confidently charged the net and placed a drop shot in front of Minnesota senior Chris Wettengel. But Wettengel countered with his own charge, slamming his return into Rose’s back to win the game.

Purdue looked similarly confident at the beginning of Sunday’s dual. The Boilermakers took an early 1-0 lead by winning two of the three doubles sets, including a dominating 8-1 over the Gophers’ No. 49 tandem of Clay Estes and Avery Ticer.

But Minnesota came back in the singles competition, taking five of six matches to beat Purdue 5-2 and improve to 3-1 in the Big Ten.

Despite the dominating finish, the Gophers’ early struggles left the team flat and gave Purdue confidence.

“Doubles is always a really emotional game,” Ticer said. “Purdue is a good team that plays on emotion, and those teams are always dangerous.”

Ticer helped Minnesota bounce back by quickly winning the first singles match 6-2, 7-5.

Freshmen Brian Lipinski and Andres Osorio also contributed to the Gophers’ turnaround with dramatic comeback victories that went down to the last game.

Osorio came back from a 4-6 loss in the first set to win the match 4-6, 6-1, 7-6.

Lipinski lost his first set 5-7, but won his match in similar fashion by the score of 5-7, 6-3, 7-6.

Senior Aleksey Zharinov added yet another close victory when he defeated Purdue’s Troy Havens in the last game of his two winning sets, 7-6, 6-1, 7-6.

Coach David Geatz said the clutch play was a testament to the way the team bounced back after the doubles competition.

“When you lose that doubles point, you get a sense of urgency,” Geatz said. “Our guys just had a greater sense of that urgency.”

Geatz said some of that urgency was thanks to Wettengel’s play. He entertained the crowd with his yelling, which was used to encourage his teammates and psych out Rose.

“My game revolves around being loud and keeping a positive attitude for the team,” Wettengel said. “If they hear me they know I’m doing OK, even if I’m actually struggling.”

Against Purdue, Wettengel did not need to fake his excitement. He won in two sets, 6-3, 7-6.

Although Wettengel’s vocal style inspired his teammates, he said it was his shot to Rose’s back that inspired him.

“I had an open court, but why risk missing when you can just go right at him?” He said. “It intimidated him and helped me win the next two games.”

Women lose two

Minnesota’s women’s tennis team took to the road over the weekend, and fell 6-1 to both Illinois and Purdue.

The Gophers’ Angela Buergis earned the team’s only point in both matches. She won at Purdue with a 6-1, 6-3 output and gained a 6-3, 5-7 (10-7) victory at Illinois.

Minnesota’s No. 1 doubles team of Buergis and Nischela Reddy won their set 8-6 at Purdue. But the Gophers lost the doubles point by dropping the other two sets.