This past weekend, the women’s tennis team won their first Ivy League title with a big win over Princeton. Nicole Bartnik, team captain, talked to sports maven Conor Cashel about this big accomplishment.
Bwog: First of all, congratulations on securing a share of your first Ivy League title and finishing with the best record in program history! Very exciting stuff. How are you all feeling in the wake of these successes?
Nicole: First of all thank you very much, we are all really happy with the huge improvement we have made in the last few years. This is the best season in our program’s history and it took a lot of hard work, so it is nice to see all of that effort pay off. It is just very exciting to know that only two years ago we were sitting in last place in the league standings, and now we are at the very least tied for first and most likely sending a few girls to NCAAs. I think it just goes to show that you can’t base your future expectations only on previous experiences, and as long as you have confidence in the work you are putting in towards something, you will see results! I’m just extremely proud of everyone.
B: Did you approach this season any differently than you have in years past? Can you point to anything in particular that facilitated the jump to the top of the Ivy League?
NB: This year we changed a few things in how we approached the season and every match we played. The most important thing is that we really emphasized the importance of approaching every match the same way, regardless of who the opponent was, and making sure not to put more priority on one match over another. I think that was really important and it made all of us really take one match at a time. Also, I think this is the fittest our team has ever been, and that was obviously a huge factor in many matches. Both of these things gave everyone a lot of confidence.
B: So in order to lock up the title outright and claim an automatic bid to the NCAA Championships, the Brown Bears need to take down Yale this weekend. We’re obviously rooting hard for the Bears… How does the berth get decided if you end up in a tie?
NB: I’m not entirely sure how the selection works but from what I understand, if we end up in a tie, Yale would get the automatic berth because they won the head to head. However, a lot depends on the results of other conferences because after all the conference winners get placed in the tournament, it comes down to ranking. So if there were a lot of conference winners ranked ahead of us, it would be possible to get a bid based on ranking. But again, this is completely dependent on the upcoming results around the country.
B: What would appearing in the Championships mean to you as a team? This would be the first time in team history, correct?
NB: If we did make the tournament, it would be the first time in the program. Obviously that would be an incredible feeling, and I think if we went, we would focus on treating the first round like any match. Regardless, we have made huge improvements in our program so making the tournament would just be extra satisfaction. As for singles and doubles, the bids won’t be announced for a while, but it seems likely that we could send our number 1 doubles team and myself to the tournament. This would also be a program first, although we have to wait a few more weeks to be certain.
B: Singles or Doubles? I imagine Singles is the glamour spot, but Doubles must be more interestingly strategically…
NB: College tennis is interesting because doubles is far more important than I think it is in juniors. In juniors, singles is the focus and most tournaments don’t even have a doubles draw, whereas in college it counts for an entire point. So, I think I am far stronger in singles, but doubles has become more of a focus in the last four years and I have really grown to love it. Obviously, there is a lot of strategy when it comes to partners, but besides that, I think it is a nice change to be on the court working with someone rather than being alone in singles. The team aspect is really great in what is typically an individual sport, and I think that now, I prefer to play doubles.
B: Who is your favorite Tennis player on the professional circuit and why?
NB: My favorite player on the tour right now is Agnieszka Radwanska, and not just because she is Polish (my family is from Poland). She doesn’t hit the ball particularly hard like many other pros on the women’s tour, but she is so fast and very crafty. She comes to the net a lot and uses a lot of slices and drop shots, which I think is really fun to watch.
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