Memorable senior day for Bertha, Kostanov
UW AthleticsSenior day. It is the last time for a college athlete to step on the court, rink or field at home. For some it is an emotional rollercoaster, for others inspirational and for some nerve-racking. The Wisconsin men’s tennis team walked into Nielsen Tennis Stadium to play its last home match of the season. For Billy Bertha and Alexander Kostanov, the Badgers’ two lone seniors, it would be the last time they played at home in their careers.Kostanov and Bertha stepped onto the doubles court as teammates for the last time at home Sunday, determined to take a win against Nebraska’s number one doubles team of Dusty Boyer and Marc Herrmann. For both Badgers it was an experience filled with emotion.“It was kind of weird,” Bertha explained. “I have been playing on that court for 8 years now if you include high school finals. Just taking a look around the building it was really nostalgic.”For Kostanov, who transferred to Wisconsin from the University of South Carolina after his sophomore season, the nostalgia wasn’t as strong, but the nerves were still present.“I was a little bit nervous,” Kostanov confessed. “There were so many people that came here, and everyone knew that I was a senior and it is going to be my last match. I had a hard time relaxing at first, but we still finished strong and came away with the win. It doesn’t get a whole lot better than that.”The nerves were fairly evident as the two seniors struggled getting settled and dropped the first game. However the two rallied back, putting away the next four games to bring the score to 4-1. After that, Nebraska went on their own run tying the game up at four apiece. The remainder of the match was hard fought back and forth, until finally the Badgers’ top doubles duo pulled away and notched their final win at Nielsen 8-6.“Being seniors, we could understand the position each other were in,” Bertha said. “It really helped us meld together and pull out the win.”After winning the doubles point, Bertha and Kostanov were honored in a ceremony for the seniors. Both received framed pictures of the team as family and friends cheered and snapped pictures. This was clearly a strong motivator as the team went on to win five out of six singles matches, an area the team has been struggling in as of late.Bertha faced off against Nebraska freshman Marc Herrmann. Herrmann, looking for vengeance from the close doubles loss, came out swinging in his singles match. Herrmann took the first point and didn’t look back, winning in two sets with scores of 6-3 and 6-4.“Billy’s opponent played a nearly flawless match,” head coach Greg Van Emburgh said. “He didn’t miss many balls, capitalized on his opportunities and was just hot today.”Herrmann’s ability to win on deuces and prevent Billy from taking the close games made the loss slightly more heartbreaking.Kostanov started his singles match firing on all cylinders. He cruised to a 6-1 win in the first set after winning the first five games, causing Dusty Boyer of Nebraska to be visibly frustrated. Boyer used that frustration in the second set to take a 5-3 lead. However Kostanov was not going to give up easily. The senior from Kursk, Russia beat back four set points and eventually sent the set into a tiebreaker.Kostanov’s enthusiasm and energy in the game exploded in the extended play as every point warranted a loud battle cry. Kostanov put away the final point of the tiebreaker to make the score 7-5, winning the match 2-0.“It was great,” Kostanov exclaimed. “It could not have been any better. To pick up a doubles and singles win, and win on a tiebreak. It was perfect.”Despite being thought of as an individual sport by some, the Wisconsin men’s tennis team is just that–a team.“My best memories of this place have just been coming here and enjoying time with the guys,” Bertha reminisced. “I got to meet and get to know a lot of really good friends here over the years.”In the end, the team gave the seniors one of the best gifts they could, a decisive 6-1 win over a Big Ten opponent, further readying the team for the Big Ten tournament next weekend.