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Tough Tulsa talent to test tennis team

Patrick Barron/Daily
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By Jason Rubinstein, For the Daily
Published February 26, 2013

Two years ago, the then-No. 12 Michigan men’s tennis team was taken by surprise, upset by an unranked Tulsa squad. Wednesday, the 23rd-ranked Wolverines (4-3) get the rematch they’ve been waiting for.

The 17th-ranked Golden Hurricanes mark the sixth ranked opponent the Wolverines have faced in their last eight matches.

Tulsa (5-5) has started the dual-match season strong and has been proven tough to beat — having defeated Michigan’s rivals such as Illinois and Minnesota.

“If (playing tough matches) doesn’t break you, it only makes you stronger,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “The only way we can improve as a team is by playing strong competition every match and getting exposed in an ideal way.”

Playing tougher, highly rated opponents will likely help Michigan players increase their national rankings as such matchups help create more opportunities for the team to improve. Schedule strength is the greatest determinant in ITA college rankings.

“They have always been a team that consistently qualifies for the Sweet 16,” Berque said. “They have a lot of experience on their team right now. They have a lot of international players who have a lot of experience. We are expecting another very tough match.”

Michigan will look to its doubles to set the tone early. The Wolverines have won the doubles point in five of seven dual matches this season. The point is critical, as Michigan is 4-1 when it wins the point and 0-2 when it loses.

Senior Evan King and junior Shaun Bernstein own a 5-1 record at the No. 1 doubles spot. Michigan will also expect strong play from redshirt sophomore Justin Rossi, a steady contributor in the doubles lineup. The rising sophomore tandem of Michael Zhu and Alex Petrone has also shown promise at the No. 3 spot with its fusion of different playing styles.

King will look to extend his singles winning streak to 11 matches, and a victory versus Tulsa’s No. 52 Japie De Klerk would be extra special. Not only would this be King’s 99th victory as a Wolverine, but it would also move him into a tie with Michael Leach (1979-82) for fifth place in the program’s history in career victories.

A win versus Tulsa could give the Wolverines much-needed momentum as they close in on the start of the Big Ten season.

“Our guys want (to play tough competition),” Berque said. “They think of themselves as a team who can compete against the best teams, and we have an opportunity to show our strength against Tulsa.”

NOTE: Michigan football junior wide receiver Drew Dileo and sophomore cornerback Blake Countess will sign autographs from 6:30-7 p.m. at the Varsity Tennis Center before the match.


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