BY BRIAN MECHANICK AND ANDREW HADDAD
Published March 28, 2010
Last season, the Michigan men’s tennis team opened its Big Ten season by losing back-to-back road matches at Minnesota and Iowa, setting the stage for a disappointing fourth-place finish in the conference. This weekend, the Wolverines faced both teams back to back again, but this time in Ann Arbor. It seemed like the tables were turned, especially after Michigan won both matches.
“It was a good weekend for us overall,” Michigan coach Bruce Berque said. “It was important for us to be ready and show eagerness, energy and aggression. I felt we showed all of those things out on the court today.”
The 28th-ranked Wolverines defeated the Golden Gophers 5-2 and the Hawkeyes 6-1. Michigan is now 3-0 in the Big Ten.
Yesterday against Iowa, the Wolverines (3-0 Big Ten, 7-7 overall) took care of business early, winning the first five matches to clinch victory. At No. 1 and 2 singles, freshman Evan King and junior Jason Jung both won in straight sets. Senior captain George Navas had one of the most dominant performances of the day, winning 6-4, 6-1.
“George really impressed me today,” Berque said. “He’s our captain and I thought he showed a lot of leadership today on the court and also got two really good results.”
Mike Sroczynski won the hardest-fought victory of the day in No. 3 singles. He won the first set in a tiebreaker, dropped the second set and won the third. The final score was a dramatic 12-10 tiebreaker.
"I thought I started out pretty well,” Sroczynski said. “I had a bit of a mental lapse in the first set and lost my focus for a little bit. I didn't stick to my plan completely. I've got to give the other guy credit in the second set. He played very well. And then that third set is always a dogfight. I was lucky to come out with a win today."
On Saturday, the team took on Minnesota for the tennis version of the Little Brown Jug. The Wolverines defeated the No. 39 Golden Gophers 5-2 at the Varsity Tennis Center, bringing the Jug back to Ann Arbor.
The day got off to a tight start in doubles, as Minnesota took the No. 3 match. The No. 1 doubles team of seniors George Navas and Mike Sroczynski couldn’t put away two match points, but came back strong to take the tiebreaker.
The No. 2 pair of Jason Jung and Evan King fell behind in their match early 4-1, but came back strong and take the lead 7-6. King was broken serving for the match, but the pair stayed strong, winning in a tiebreak and giving the Wolverines the first point.
Singles got off to a strong start as freshman Chris Cha won in straight sets at No. 6. Navas kept the momentum going winning 6-4, 7-5 at No. 4, displaying fiery emotion in the hard-fought victory.
The impact of taking back the Little Brown Jug after losing it for the first time in years was not lost on Berque.
"It's definitely a good thing,” Berque said. “The Minnesota coach suggested it a few years back, and I thought it was a good idea. I didn't like walking by our trophy case and not seeing it in there. It's good to have it for at least another year."
The victories this weekend put the Wolverines in a good position as they head into the meat of their Big Ten schedule. Next weekend they have another home doubleheader against Northwestern and Wisconsin.
“It’s early,” Berque said. “But I know our guys are excited about competing for the Big Ten title. We’re a long way away from winning any kind of championship, but right now we’re 3-0. Next weekend we have two really good teams coming into town, and we’d like to continue our good start. Our focus is on nothing more than next weekend.”