Blue storms back to upset rival Irish

Daily Sports Writer
Published February 20, 2011

After dropping the doubles point for the seventh consecutive match, the Michigan men’s tennis team found itself in a hole. But with freshman Shaun Bernstein still on the court for the Wolverines, the match rested in his hands. He completed a second set comeback to win the match and upset No. 23 Notre Dame in South Bend.

The Wolverines were led by Bernstein and fellow freshman Barrett Franks, and the doubles team of sophomore Evan King and senior Jason Jung. They won four out of six singles matches to beat Notre Dame, 4-3.

Michigan dropped the doubles point, despite a win from King and Jung at No. 1 doubles. Senior Chris Madden got a new partner at No. 2 doubles, in an attempt by Michigan coach Bruce Berque to shuffle the lineup.

“I think we are better now with Chris (Madden) back in the lineup,” Berque said. “We just need to keep working on doubles skills and learning to take better command of doubles matches.”

Franks, who played in his first doubles match of the season, was paired with Madden, but their opponent was too tough, and they fell 8-5.

After the first match of the season against Western Michigan, the doubles point has been looming in the Wolverines’ minds. They continue to work toward winning the doubles point in every match.

“We’re doing everything we can to work on that (the doubles point),” Bernstein said. “The team is learning and everyone is learning individually. We’re definitely headed into the right direction, though.”

Though the doubles play isn’t clicking, Michigan has overcome surrendering the early one-point lead in every match since the opener. While winning the doubles point would help the team win more dual-matches and take pressure away from the singles, Berque believes his team’s composure and poise has grown.

“We’ve lost seven doubles points in a row now, but we’re getting a lot of experience at playing from behind,” Berque said. “When they step out onto the singles court, they realize that there’s no room to mess around.”

After doubles finished, No. 1 singles player King made fast work of his opponent Casey Watt, winning 6-2, 6-1, and tying the match at one a piece. His doubles partner Jung followed suit, beating Stephen Havens of the Irish 6-3, 6-1. At No. 5 singles, Barrett Franks won his sixth singles match of the year and improved his record to 6-2.

After winning the first set and taking an early lead in the second, Tyler Davis ran off a string of games to take the lead 4-3 in the set. Later in the match, Franks dropped seventh game of the set, before rallying off the next three to take the set 6-4, and complete his match, winning 6-4, 6-4.

At that point, Michigan had a 3-1 lead over the Irish, but two of the three remaining matches finished quickly in Notre Dame’s favor, as the match became tied at three. The freshman Bernstein found himself the last one on the court against Daniel Stahl. After having come back to win the first set, Bernstein was down in the second, in an all too familiar position.

In January, Bernstein found himself the last one on the court against No. 5 Texas, with the match resting on his shoulders. Bernstein went on to lose the match, giving Texas the victory and spoiling Michigan’s upset bid.

“There’s always some extra weight on your shoulders when you know that everyone else is done, and the match is coming down to you,” Bernstein said. “This was the second time this happened to me, so I think I used what I learned from the last time to help me stay more poised and composed, and just go for my shots while staying aggressive.”

Bernstein did just that. He overcame a 4-3 hole to win the set 6-4 and the match 7-6, 6-4, giving the Wolverines a victory in South Bend.

“The great thing about college tennis is that you have a new match every week,” Bernstein said. “That gives you an opportunity to bounce back, constantly learn from tough breaks and some really good wins.”

For Michigan, the Big Ten season is around the corner and the brutal non-conference game is coming to a close. After having played six of the last seven matches against ranked opponents, Michigan’s win on the road against Notre Dame provided some confidence.

“I’m really excited about (the win),” Bernstein said. “It was a great effort for us to come back once again, after being down the doubles point. And it really shows a lot of heart and character for us as a team to come back like we did and win on the road, especially after losing the doubles point.”

The Wolverines can’t get too confident though, until they can win that doubles point.

“By the time we get to Big Ten play, we should be at our very best,” Berque said. “The biggest thing I want to do is to improve our doubles play so we can win the doubles point.”