The Indiana men’s tennis team returned home to take on in-state rival Purdue on Saturday at the IU Tennis Center.
The Hoosiers hoped to take advantage of their home crowd and break a three-match losing streak to start off Big Ten play on a positive note. Instead, they got pure disappointment.
The match ended 4-0 in favor of the Boilermakers, as multiple factors played into the Hoosiers’ defeat.
Before the match began, a vocal dispute between the coaching staff and senior Vikash Singh led him to exit the warmups. Singh did not play in the match due to unknown reasons.
Singh routinely makes up half of the No. 1 doubles team with senior teammate Carson Haskins and plays in the middle of the singles lineup for the Hoosiers. In his absence, head coach Jeremy Wurtzman called upon sophomore Jagger Saylor to compete with Haskins in doubles and play at the No. 6 singles spot.
In addition to the early antics, Indiana’s home court advantage proved to be not as favorable as it had been in previous matches. A slew of Purdue fans traveled to Bloomington and made their voices heard throughout the match.
Even though the home crowd was just as strong, the match point and momentum Indiana lost after the doubles round were too much to overcome.
“The doubles point sets the tone for the rest of the match, so if you lose that, you have a lot more pressure to do well in singles,” sophomore Michael Andre said. “I think we were right there today, but having the momentum going against us was important (for Purdue).”
Andre was a part of the Hoosiers’ limited success on the afternoon, winning the team’s only match of the outing at No. 3 doubles spot with junior Luka Vukovic by a score of 6-4. The pair are 5-2 on the season when playing together and have won two consecutive doubles matches.
“We’re playing at (No.) 3 doubles, but our team is very even in terms of skill,” Andre said. “I feel like we always have a bigger advantage over who we’re playing.”
Still, Andre and his teammates struggled to crawl back into the match for the remainder of the afternoon.
Saylor lost his singles match 3-6, 3-6, and Andre fell 4-6, 3-6, shortly after.
Even though Purdue had notched a 3-0 leading up to that point, the match was far from being decided.
Haskins was closed in on a victory against Purdue senior Athell Bennett, holding a 7-5, 4-5, lead. At the same time, Indiana senior Patrick Fletchall mounted a comeback against Purdue junior Sebastain Welch, while the No. 2 match was balanced at 1-6, 6-4, 3-3. Vukovic also led freshman Gabriele Brancatelli 6-2, 4-5, at the No. 3 position.
However, it was sophomore Ilya Tiraspolsky’s match that sealed Indiana’s defeat and ended the other singles matches early. Tiraspolsky went down with an ankle injury during the third set of his match and was forced to forfeit, thus giving Purdue its fourth and final point.
It was an unconventional end to a high-tensions, high-stakes match, and, for the Hoosiers, things won’t be getting easier anytime soon.
Indiana is slated to play the No. 3 team in the country — Ohio State — on April 1, and Michael Andre said the team has a lot to improve upon if it wants a shot at a conference title.
“We need to work on converting some of the big match points,” Andre said. “If we can win those, our results can easily change."