In rough season, Badgers play for each other

first_imgUW AthleticsOftentimes when teams have disappointing seasons, some quarrels and unrest among players are common. The Wisconsin men’s tennis team, however, could not be a stronger, more tightly-knit unit, regardless of its 2-7 Big Ten conference record.“Playing with these guys is so much fun,” freshman Oskar Wikberg said of his teammates. “We are basically spending all of our time together on and off the court and we see each other everyday, so we are very close [to each other].”Perhaps the reason why these seven guys spend so much time together is because they find themselves in the same boat: six of them are international students – most of whom did not come to America before enrolling at Wisconsin. The lone American player on the roster, senior captain Billy Bertha, takes pride in showing his teammates the ropes.“I think it’s cool [having so many international players on the team],” Bertha said. “I get a different perspective from other people and their culture and just the fact that I get to interact with people from another part of the world is pretty cool.”The greatest example of just how close this team is can be seen during any of their matches. As soon as one player finishes, instead of going to the locker room and taking a shower or grabbing a bite to eat, they go to cheer on a fellow teammate. Regardless of the score, each player has a smile on his face when he sees his teammate hit a great shot, come up with a clutch serve and especially when the team wins a match. The cheering is not just for show; it’s for results.In Wikberg’s match-clinching win Friday against Purdue, he said his teammates played a major role and deserved a lot of credit.“Oh, absolutely the cheering has an effect on my play,” Wikberg said. “When my teammates came over to cheer me on this Friday [against Purdue] all I wanted to do was win. I just wanted to win even more.”Bertha added, “When we’re all cheering for each other in matches, and when we’re pushing each other on the court, it’s because we all have the same goals and we all want to help each other accomplish them.”Those who have never been to a Badger tennis match might think that cheering for teammates is commonplace in collegiate tennis, but that is not necessarily the case. In Sunday’s match with the Indiana Hoosiers, the Badgers found themselves in a 6-0 hole with just Wikberg’s match remaining. Both teams were cheering on their respective players (the Hoosiers cheering on Dimitrije Tasic) when the match was tied up. As Wikberg started to put together a few points, however, the Hoosiers suddenly were nowhere to be found while the Badgers were still cheering loudly between points and giving the emotional support Wikberg needed in order to make it a match.Tasic fought back and was soon in control of the match and, miraculously, his Hoosier teammates were back courtside. Where were the Badgers during this momentum shift? Changing in the locker room? Grabbing some bagels as a postgame snack? No, they were right there cheering loudly as ever for their teammate when he needed them most.And while Wikberg and the Badgers were unable to pull out the victory, at the end of the day they are teammates and, regardless of the score, it’s the job of teammates to be there for each other and to support one another – something at which this Badger squad excels.In his postgame interview with The Badger Herald and with his teammates walking by and screaming his name while poking fun at him by saying things like, “How can you do that interview? You don’t know any English!” in a mocking and sarcastic tone, Wikberg said “to win for these guys and to win with these guys is a truly unbelievable feeling.”last_img