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Men’s Tennis

Notre Dame tops Northwestern behind strong performance in singles play

| Wednesday, February 14, 2018

No. 22 Notre Dame extended its undefeated start to the season by defeating Northwestern 5-1 at the Combe Tennis Center in Evanston, Illinois, on Sunday.

In the singles competition, junior Alex Lebedev grabbed a 6-4, 6-2 victory on court No. 1, while freshman Tristan McCormick won 6-4, 7-6 on court No. 3. Over on court No. 6, junior Grayson Broadus defeated his opponent 6-4, 6-4, while sophomore Matt Gamble grabbed a 6-4, 7-5 victory on court No. 5. On court No. 4, Richard Ciamarra won the first set of his match by a score of 6-2 before dropping the second set by a score of 6-1. Ciamarra recovered, however, and took the deciding third set, 6-3.

Ann Curtis | The Observer

Irish junior Alex Lebedev prepares for an incoming serve during Notre Dame’s 6-1 win over Michigan State on Jan. 19 at Eck Tennis Pavilion.

The only point the Irish (7-0) lost came in doubles play, as the Wildcats (3-5) took two of the three doubles matches. Sophomore Guillermo Cabrera also competed in singles play, but his match on court No. 2 went unfinished after the Irish had secured the victory.

Irish head coach Ryan Sachire said he was pleased with his team’s performance Sunday.

“It was a great win for us,” Sachire said. “Our guys played well, and more importantly, they competed well. Northwestern is a great team, and we were excited to do as well as we did against them. In terms of season record, I guess that is a great accomplishment. I think for us, it is more important just to stay focused on what we are doing each day and to play each match the best that we can play it, and I think our record and our ranking and that sort of stuff will all take care of itself.

“So I look at it more as a reflection on the fact that we’ve done such a good job to start the year and our guys are working hard and improving, and that’s the most important thing.”

Sachire singled out Gamble’s and Lebedev’s performances, but he also said he thought everyone played well collectively.

“It was a good day from everybody, really,” Sachire said. “Alex Lebedev continues to be a stud. Last year, he lost to the guy that he played on Sunday in our dual-match with Northwestern, and [he] beat him pretty soundly on Sunday, so that was a great performance. Northwestern is really strong in the middle of their lineup, particularly No. 5 singles as well, and Matt Gamble did a great job in his match beating a really great No. 5 player. So I would really highlight Lebedev and Gamble as two guys — again all did really well, but those two guys were awesome.”

Despite the 7-0 record, Sachire expressed his desire to improve his team’s doubles play.

“We still have a lot to work on for sure,” Sachire said. “We have to get better in doubles. That is a big thing. We’re not playing tremendous doubles right now, but that’s ok. We are still doing well enough to continue to be successful, but we definitely want to continue to improve the doubles area and get to the point where we’re one of the better teams in the country in doubles. That is our expectation and that’s our goal, and we’re not quite there yet now.

“And so in the practices leading up to national indoors on Friday, that is going to be a big focus on what we do.”

Notre Dame will be back in action this weekend when they participate in the ITA Division I national indoor championship, which is being hosted by Washington at Seattle Tennis Club in Seattle beginning Friday. The tournament features the top-16 teams in the country.

Sachire said his team is looking forward to the challenges it will face during the tournament. He also said his team will continue to focus on doing the same things which have made it successful this early on in the season.

“Just continue us doing the same things we’ve been doing, and that’s practice really hard and practice with the focus of improving and getting better and knowing when game day comes around, we’re competing for every point as hard as we can,” Sachire said. “It’s a pretty simple answer; but when you can do that, you can have amazing success, and our group has experienced that. So we feel really confident going into the national indoors. We know there are some great teams there, and we’re going to have to play very well to beat any of them.

“Each match will be a challenge and tough, but we also know we’re a pretty darn good team, too. And if we do things that we’ve been doing in terms of our preparation and how we compete on game day, we will have a chance to be successful.”

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