Missing when it matters: Chicago drops close matches to Bears, Gusties

By Sam Zacher

Effort can only take you so far.

No. 29 Chicago (11–4) was simply outmatched against No. 14 Wash U (12–5) and No. 18 Gustavus Adolphus (18–9) on Saturday, falling by scores of 6–3 and 7–2, respectively.

“Against Wash U, we felt as if we were right there with them,” second-year Deepak Sabada said. “Every match was tightly contested, but they were able to play better than us in the clutch situations, which led to them winning a lot of close matches.”

Sabada has played extraordinarily well for the South Siders this season, comfortably taking on the No. 1 singles role. Prior to the match against the Bears, he had won eight straight individual matches. On Saturday, he ran into the regions’ No. 1 singles player, Adam Putterman, and lost 7–5, 6–2.

Second-year Ankur Bhargava and third-year Neil Karandikar came out victorious at No. 2 doubles. Third-year Alexander Golovin won on the No. 3 singles court, while first-year Jake Crawford secured the Maroons’ third and final point with a win at No. 4 singles.

Although Chicago had won 10 of their last 11 matches before Saturday, the odds were stacked against them. Not only did the Maroons have to face two top-20 teams, they had to play them on the road and back-to-back.

“Against Gustavus, it was a similar story,” Sabada said. “We lost four extremely close matches which would have changed the outcome of the match.”

“Playing Gustavus Adolphus on the same day right after Wash U was a huge task and very difficult on the team physically and mentally,” Bhargava said. “We competed very well throughout all nine matches, but fatigue did catch up with us. However, we battled till the very end. Two great examples were [first-year] Gordon Zhang and [fourth-year] Harrison Abrams that continued to fight even after the match was over.”

Sabada triumphed in his match against the Gusties, winning 6–3, 6–2. Chicago’s victory came from first-year Gordon Zhang and Crawford on the No. 3 doubles court (8–6).

The Maroons put in a lot of effort on the day, but some certain problems have persisted that could hurt the team later in the season.

“[Losing close matches] has been a problem for us the last three matches, and this is something we are looking to fix as a team before UAAs,” Sabada said.

Sabada and the South Siders are still confident, though. After all, they won 10 in a row earlier in the season, so they know how to play at a high level.

“We have been playing some of our best tennis late in the season, and once we learn how to finish close matches we feel like we can do well at UAAs,” Sabada said.

After losing their last three matches, the Maroons look to swing the season momentum back around this Wednesday against UIC (5–14) and Thursday against Wheaton (9–3).

Although UIC’s record doesn’t seem too daunting, the Flames are a DI team, so the young Maroons will have to bring their A-game this week.

On the other hand, Wheaton’s winning percentage (.750) is similar to the Maroons’ (.733). The Thunder has had a relatively easy schedule, however, its hardest game coming against No. 28 UW–Whitewater, to which it lost 8–1. The South Siders lost to the same team 6–3 a week ago.

Chicago heads a few miles north on Wednesday to face UIC at 4:30 p.m. and gets right back at it on Thursday, traveling to Wheaton, IL. to play the Thunder at 4 p.m.