By Theo Dubin, Daily Sports Writer
Published October 7, 2012
The Michigan men’s tennis team’s fall season got off to an ignominious staff last weekend as it faltered in the ITA Men’s All-American Championships at the University of Tulsa.
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The Wolverines sent senior co-captain Evan King, ranked No. 4 in the country, junior co-captain Shaun Bernstein, Spencer Newman, ranked 31st, and Alex Petrone, ranked 51st to the singles tournament. Michigan also sent the third ranked duo of King and Bernstein, as well as Petrone and Newman, for the doubles tournament.
None of Michigan’s singles entrants performed well. In the main draw singles bracket, King lost both of his matches in straight sets and Newman, a transfer from Florida, dropped his first contest at Michigan. He later won a consolation match, before losing in the second round of the consolation bracket.
Bernstein, who fell in the second round, and Petrone both lost in the qualifying bracket.
The tournament was a letdown for a Michigan squad that has high expectations this year, Petrone said.
“I don’t think we were 100 percent prepared for the tournament,” said Petrone. “We put in a good effort, but we need to play sharper.”
The doubles teams fared slightly better than the singles players. Newman and Petrone lost their only match in the qualifying bracket, but the combination of King and Bernstein finished the tournament with a 2-1 mark.
Michigan will rely on King, Bernstein and Petrone to anchor this year’s team, which features a solid group of returning players. The Wolverines also added fresh talent through transfers with Newman and sophomore Vlad Stefan, an All-ACC selection during his freshman year at Maryland.
The player to watch this year will be King. The Chicago native enters the season with a legitimate shot at a national title, and is the highest-ranked player Michigan has had in coach Bruce Berque’s nine-year tenure. The Wolverines will need better performances from King if they hope to be a nationally competitive program this year.
“As we get more time on the court, we will improve,” said Petrone. “It helps to get your feet wet and get a match under your belt.”
While Michigan’s performance was certainly sobering, it provides a reality check for a team and coach that have not dealt with such high expectations in a long time.
The poor performance can certainly be attributed to the fact that this was the first competition of the year for the Wolverines. After a long offseason of workouts and preparation, each player takes time to rediscover his identity and competition pace, Petrone said.
“We just need to focus on getting better each day in practice,” said Petrone. “We will get to where we want to be soon.”