The Michigan men’s tennis team is in a prime position to build upon its No. 17 ranking to finish out the fall season after this past weekend’s performance at the Big Ten Fall Championships in East Lansing.
The doubles team of senior Davis Crocker and freshman Harrison Brown combined for five close wins and a Big Ten title on Friday to kick off the weekend.
“I’d never played with Harry before and I’ve only known him for about two months,” Crocker said, “but I’m glad I was able to help him get that title so early in his career.
“He definitely carried me as much as I carried him,” Crocker said. “We kept going for our shots, going for our serves and not really being afraid of the moment. He did a great job with that.”
This wasn’t the first time Crocker earned a Big Ten title. Two years ago, associate coach Sean Maymi brought Crocker to the same tournament, and that experience seemingly paid dividends.
“Two years ago … he won it in singles,” Maymi said. “I think he obviously has some high expectations for himself and so do we. It was really neat to see him improve from the doubles standpoint. Also, playing with a freshman on our team, I think it was great because he showed a lot of great leadership skills that he’s learned over the years.”
Crocker was the only non-freshman that Maymi brought to the tournament. Along with Brown, freshman Kristofer Siimar and redshirt freshman Nick Beaty competed in both doubles and singles.
The freshmen duo of Siimar and Beaty made it into the quarterfinals of the doubles draw, eventually losing to a pair from Northwestern in a tiebreaker, 7-8 (4). Both had short runs in the singles tournament, especially Siimar, who hurt his wrist on the day of the doubles tournament. However, Maymi thinks the freshmen have shown promise and talent that can quickly develop.
“(The expectations are) pretty high,” Maymi said. “We expect a lot from the whole team but as the guys come in, we expect them to really transition into that same sort of role that the older guys have had.”
Crocker’s role as a leader and big-time player was on full display over the weekend as he carried his doubles success into the singles tournament, beginning with a high-pressure three-set win over Michigan State's Josh Mukherjee, 6-3, 6-7 (2), 6-3.
“Any time you win or lose a tight set, you have to go on the changeover and spend a moment reflecting on how that set went, and then start to look forward to what your game plan used to be,” Maymi said. “He rebounded well (after the second set) and just realized, ‘Look, there’s only a few things that were different.’ We didn’t have to change too much of the gameplan for him.”
After another well-fought win in the next round over Northwestern’s Ben Vandixhorn, Crocker’s run for another Big Ten singles title and a Michigan sweep came to an end against aggressive Ohio State lefty Alex Kobelt, 4-6, 4-6.
“It was a couple points here and there,” Maymi said. “Kobelt played great. He’s a big left-handed player. Davis had his work cut out for him and made a few too many mistakes, but again, Kobelt is a good player.”
Up next for the Wolverines is nationals later this week, a continuation from the ITA Midwest Regional Championships that took place in Ann Arbor two weekends ago. Seniors Runhao Hua and Alex Knight will look to continue their regional success in both the singles and doubles championships. And it may not be a bad idea for them to follow what Maymi said before Crocker’s third set against Michigan State.
As he put it then: “Stick to the plan and trust the process.”