NORMAN – Oklahoma men’s tennis moved to 8-2 on the season Saturday at the 2017 ITA National Men's Team Indoor Championship in Charlottesville, Va., defeating No. 7 Northwestern 4-3 in the consolation draw.
Coming off of a first-set defeat in singles at the No. 6 spot, freshman Jochen Bertsch used a 6-3 win in the second set to force a decisive third, which came down to the wire. Bertsch came back from down a break in the final set to force a tiebreaker. The Mannheim, Germany, native won the breaker and the match (6-7, 6-3, 7-6) to give the 14th-ranked Sooners their third top-25 win of the season. Bertsch improved to 7-1 in dual-play singles following his clutch victory.
"We've been talking all week about what it takes to beat top teams," head coach Nick Crowell said. "Resiliency was one of those things. Today we showed that and Jochen (Bertsch) really pushed through at the end. He was down 3-1 in the third but never waivered in his belief. He really stepped up big for the team."
Oklahoma used its pairing of seniors Alex Ghilea and Florin Bragusi to begin the morning on a high note. The duo defeated Northwestern’s Strong Kirchheimer/Dominik Stary 6-2 at No. 2 doubles. The Sooners No. 3 doubles pair of Adrian Chamdani and Adrian Oetzbach then clinched the doubles point by defeating Northwestern’s Ben Vandixhorn and Chris Ephron 6-4 at No. 3 doubles. The Sooners' line one partnership of Andrew Harris and Spencer Papa went unfinished against the Wildcats’ Konrad Zieba and Sam Shropshire.
"The doubles point was a big one today," Crowell said. "All three teams came ready to go and played aggressive and with massive energy. That really helps give ous guys confidence."
Singles was a back-and-forth affair all throughout the contest, with both teams taking three first sets. Northwestern took the first two singles points, winning at the No. 5 and No. 2 spots, to take a 2-1 lead in the dual, but Oklahoma bounced right back behind its seniors to regain the lead.
Bragusi continued his hot stretch of play in singles this season, defeating Stary at the No. 4 spot, 7-6, 6-2. The victory pushed the Sooner senior to 7-1 in singles on the season. Not long after, Ghilea took the lead right back for his team by beating Shropshire 7-5, 7-6 at No. 3 singles. Ghilea also moved to 7-1 in singles in 2017 with the crucial win.
"I'm really proud of the leadership our older guys showed today," Crowell said. "Alex and Florin came up huge all day and were able to close their matches in straight sets."
Harris dropped a tight three-set match to Kirchheimer, the nation's 25th-ranked singles player, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3, leaving Bertsch as the lone Sooner on the court in what turned out to be the dual-deciding match versus Seidman at No. 6 singles.
Oklahoma will be back in action at the Boar’s Head Sports Club on Sunday at 11 a.m. CT for its final match of the event. OU will face the winner of 7th-seeded Florida vs. 15th-seeded Mississippi State.
"Tomorrow we'll be ready for another top-ranked showdown and look to build on today," Crowell said.
The Sooners will be back in Norman at the Headington Family Tennis Center Friday, Feb. 24, for a match versus Tulsa. As always, admission to regular season matches is free for all fans.
For more information on Oklahoma men’s tennis, follow the team on Twitter @OU_MTennis. You can also follow @ITA_Tennis on Twitter and Instagram or use the hashtag #ITAIndoors for live updates. All matches will be live streamed on FloTennis, a subscription-based service, which can be found here.