- Paul Sherman/Daily
By Matthew Kipnis, Daily Sports Writer
Published April 13, 2014
When the Michigan men’s tennis team strapped in for this season, it didn’t foresee the rollercoaster ride that lay ahead. This weekend’s matches were just another up-and-down stretch, with a 5-2 loss to Minnesota (5-4 Big Ten, 11-10 overall) and a 4-3 win over Wisconsin (1-8, 9-13) during a crazy ride of a season.
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In January, the Wolverines (4-5, 12-11) slowly climbed their way to the top of the steep hill, winning their first three matches of the season.
Once Michigan was done slowly inching its way to the top, the car came to a momentary stop and then the inevitable descent began, and the Wolverines lost their next four matches.
But then Michigan came back up with a string of four wins, including one against in-state rival Michigan State. It seemed that the ride had finally calmed and was set to come back into the station until Big Ten play started and the twists and turns continued.
Since the start of conference play, the Wolverines’ inconsistency has prevented them from winning more than two games in a row. Two weeks ago, after Michigan finally put together its first two consecutive wins in the Big Ten, it followed by losing two more matches.
This past weekend, the Wolverines had their backs against the wall, needing a win to have any chance of climbing the standings but dropped their first match against the Gophers and losing their third consecutive match, they suffered their longest losing streak in Big Ten play.
With senior Barrett Franks out due to an illness, Michigan’s 24th-ranked No. 1 doubles team couldn’t play and forced Michigan to shuffle the doubles teams, causing the Wolverines to drop the point.
“Without our No. 1 doubles, we had to pull our No. 2 team to one, No. 3 team to two and put a new team at three, so that hurt us,” said Michigan coach Bruce Berque. “At the same time, we felt like we were good enough for those guys to step up, and we didn’t quite do it.”
In singles play, Minnesota won three of the first four matches in straight sets over senior Shaun Bernstein, redshirt junior Justin Rossi and freshman Michael Zhu to clinch the win.
Though the Wolverines beat the Gophers in the semifinals of the Big Ten Tournament last year, Michigan hasn’t defeated Minnesota in the regular season and won the Little Brown Jug since 2010.
“Throughout my four years, I have been unable to get it, so it was a little disappointing we didn’t get it again for a fourth time in a row, but it is not the end of the world,” said senior Alex Buzzi. “Any loss in the Big Ten is disappointing, but they are a good team and they always play really well against us.”
Sunday, the Wolverines traveled to Madison and defeated the lowest-ranked team in the Big Ten, 4-3. Though the final score makes the match appear close, Michigan won decisively to finish the road portion of its schedule 3-5.
“We were playing without two of our starters, but the important thing is that we got the team win,” Berque said. “The final score doesn’t really matter, as we are just trying to get better and healthier for next week.”
With Franks back and a little more order returned to the doubles unit, Michigan won the doubles point. The Wolverines quickly won three of the first four singles matches in straight sets to clinch the victory.
With the final road win, Michigan hopes that it has finished its rollercoaster of a season and gotten over its last bump so that it can coast into the Big Ten Tournament with two more wins at home next weekend.