Strong singles play helps men’s tennis dominate Red Men

By Chika Okafor

The old saying, “The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” was shown to be true once again as men’s tennis prepared to battle Carthage last Saturday.

“We were looking for a big, convincing win heading into the match against Carthage because we were promised a meal at the famous Brat Stop on the way back by coaches Marty Perry and Jeff White,” second-year Garrett Brinker said.

With the possibility of brats dangling before them, the Maroons (8–4) stormed Carthage (4–4) and scored a 7–2 victory against the overmatched Red Men. The Maroons won five of their six singles matches and two out of their three doubles matches.

In one of the day’s strongest performances, first-year Mark Bonner had decisive wins in both the singles and doubles matches. Competing in the sixth slot, Bonner shut out third-year Joey Perkins, winning in straight sets by a score of 6–0, 6–0. Bonner’s dominating play carried over into the doubles competition where he paired with fourth-year Bharath Sithian to beat first-year Dan Gerber and second-year Andy Schwenke 8–0. It was the second spotless score of the day for Bonner, who won 20 games without dropping a single one over the course of his two matches.

Also double-dipping in the win column were first-year Tim Walsh and second-year Lado Bakhutashvili. Walsh, playing in the fourth slot, and Bakhutashvili, playing in the third position, bested their singles opponents by the same score: 6–4, 6–2. Teaming up in doubles, Walsh and Bakhutashvili also picked up an 8–5 victory over second-years J.T. Delk and Jack Schiro.

On the day, the team’s only loss in singles came in first-year Will Zhang’s match with the Red Men’s top player, Miguel Yunes. After Yunes took the first set 6–3, Zhang won the second 6–2 but dropped the tie-breaker 6–10. The loss came on the heels of Zhang’s win over John Watts, Wash U’s star player who entered last weekend’s date with the Maroons as first-ranked in DIII.

To round out the day’s wins, Brinker beat Delk 6–3, 6–3, and second-year Steve Saltarelli topped Schwenke 6–0, 6–2. As partners, however, Brinker and Saltarelli lost their doubles match against Yunes and third-year Sergio Lopez by a final mark of 8–4.

Coming off such a solid team performance, the Maroons hope to continue their winning ways when they face the Citadel in a couple of weeks. As it prepares for that match, the team will have to come up with strategies to deal with the Bulldogs’ unique strengths.

“Well, Citadel is a military college, so we expect them to all have very good slice forehands—push-ups can make this shot very good,” Brinker said “We’ll have to combat this by moving forward and taking a lot of swinging volleys.”

After the long Chicago winter, the match with the Citadel will be a welcome break for the Maroons, who will play the Bulldogs in Charleston in the first leg of a four-match swing through South Carolina over spring break. Once its work is done in Charleston, Chicago travels to Hilton Head, where the squad will take on DePauw, Colby, and Carleton over a three day stretch.

But with the contest against the Citadel still a couple of weeks away, Chicago has plenty of time to rejuvenate and gear up for the final month of the season.

“We’ll be hitting the gym hard the next couple of weeks, followed by at least one glass of muscle milk and another of protein,” said Brinker. “…Our singles are looking really good, so if we can just protect the house a little better in doubles, we’re going to have a great spring season.”